School could close, may lose solar panel grant

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla.,None - Hundreds of Geneva parents packed a school board meeting Tuesday evening, ready to fight for their elementary school.

Geneva Elementary isn't even closed yet, but WFTV's Bianca Castro found out that the district is already putting the brakes on a major project for the school.

Students at Geneva Elementary have learned a lot about what's being built right outside their classrooms: a 10,000-watt solar panel system.

"The sun takes the panels and gives us electricity," student Molly Beaudoin said.

The school was one of 90 schools statewide to win a grant worth $90,000 from the Florida Solar Energy Center.

Geneva Elementary was chosen because it also serves as an emergency shelter for the county, and during the 2004 hurricane season, the school housed more than 160 people.

It could save thousands in electric costs, but now, the school district has stopped construction of the panels because Geneva Elementary could be forced to shut down next year.

"It would be sad and it would be so much money wasted," parent Veronica Beaudoin said.

About 75 percent of the project is complete. All that's left is to install the solar panels. But if this project doesn't finish, that's 40,000 federal stimulus dollars down the drain.

The Florida Solar Energy Center said it would be impossible to move all the work that's been done to a different school, and the district would not be on the hook for all the wasted money.

Geneva Elementary could even lose its status as an emergency shelter if it is shut down.

"It makes me sad as a mom because this is my kid's school, but as a taxpayer, it would make me angry," Veronica Beaudoin said.

The school district said the project will remain on hold until after the board decides which elementary schools to shut down next month.