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Parents protest solar panel location

The school board moved the panels farther from the front of the school, but parents don't want the view blocked.

December 22, 2010|By Michael Miller, michael.miller@latimes.com
  • A truck loaded with fencing that will surround construction on solar panels sits in front of Dwyer Middle School in Huntington Beach.
A truck loaded with fencing that will surround construction… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

A group of parents at Dwyer Middle School has started a petition drive against the district's plan to install solar paneling in front of the school, claiming the project would impede the view of the campus and deprive the community of field space.

The Huntington Beach City School District board voted 3 to 2 Tuesday to situate the panels, which are intended to supply power for parts of the school, down a slope from the front of the building at 1502 Palm Ave. The district signed a contract with Chevron in April to install the panels closer to the building, but the board voted to move them downhill after more than 100 parents signed a petition opposing the placement.

Now, the petitioners hope to persuade the district to move the panels away from the front of the school altogether. Parent Steve West, whose children attend nearby Smith Elementary School, has set up dwyersolar.wordpress.com to rally support and gather signatures.

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"Our reasoning is, 'Who puts a solar panel on their front lawn blocking their house?'" West said.

As of Wednesday, West said, the petition had 269 signatures. West has urged Dwyer parents and staff to continue putting pressure on the district before the board's Jan. 18 meeting.

Supt. Kathy Kessler said she didn't expect the petition drive to change the district's plans. The starting date of construction hasn't been decided, she said, but the project would likely take three months to finish.

"We are right now proceeding with the direction of the board," Kessler said.

School board member Celia Jaffe said she considered the new location to be a decent compromise visually because the panels would only rise up to the base of the building.

"The new location shouldn't block the front of the school at all," she said.

The contract with Chevron encompasses changes to nine district schools, including upgrades to ventilation and interior lighting. Five schools, including Dwyer, are slated to receive solar panels, although the panels will not be situated in front of the other four schools.

The district and Chevron opted for the placement at Dwyer because it was the most efficient. Officials weighed factors such as the angle of sunlight and length of electrical connections in finding a location at each school, said Chevon spokeswoman Juliet Don.

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