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La Joya ISD authorizes feasibility study on ‘clean technology’

The La Joya school board plans to study the costs and benefits of installing ultraviolet disinfection technology in school ventilation systems.

During a school board meeting on Wednesday, trustees authorized Indiana-based Performance Services Inc. to conduct a feasibility study on “clean technology,” including ultraviolet disinfection systems that kill viruses and bacteria.

School board President Oscar “Coach” Salinas said concerns about COVID-19 variants prompted the decision.

“You see it on the news. You see it on the paper. You’re hearing it daily. And it’s scary,” Salinas said. “Because a lot of our parents are scared. A lot of our staff are scared. I’m scared. My wife works here. I have family that work here.”

The “clean technology” may become the third major contract between Performance Services and the La Joya Independent School District.

Trustees authorized Indiana-based Performance Services Inc. to conduct a feasibility study on “clean technology,” including ultraviolet disinfection systems that kill viruses and bacteria. (Graphic courtesy of La Joya ISD.)

Texas law allows Performance Services and other corporations that offer “energy savings performance contracts” to bypass the competitive bidding process.

The Texas Government Code treats performance contracts like design-build construction projects, where the contractor assumes the risk that a project will exceed budget or encounter unforeseen problems. To compensate for the additional risk, contractors typically build higher profit margins into their proposals.

Performance Services conducted an analysis of La Joya ISD energy costs and proposed several ways to lower electricity bills, including LED lights and solar arrays.

The company promised the projects would pay for themselves. If they didn’t, Performance Services agreed to cover the difference.

La Joya ISD borrowed nearly $13 million for Phase I, which included new windows and lights, according to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report approved by the school board in January. La Joya ISD borrowed nearly $31 million for Phase II and other expenses, including radio communications equipment.

Phase II included heating, ventilation and air conditioning system upgrades; solar arrays at La Joya High School and Juarez-Lincoln High School; and security gates and running tracks for elementary schools.

After the feasibility study is completed, La Joya ISD could approve a third contract with Performance Services for ultraviolet disinfection technology.

Documents provided to the school board on Wednesday afternoon tout the health and educational benefits of better ventilation.

So-called “clean technology” would increase air flow, reduce energy costs and kill harmful micro-organisms, according to information provided by Performance Services.

“As mold and bacteria become problems of yesteryear, you immediately benefit from improved air quality,” according to the documents, which cite research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Performance Services didn’t provide the school board with any information about the potential costs of ultraviolet disinfection technology or vendors that sell the equipment.

Salinas, the school board president, said trustees would make a decision after reviewing the feasibility study.

“The safety of our staff and the safety of our kids are our highest priority,” Salinas said.

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