PARIS — SAD 17 directors debated Monday how to move forward on a $3.5 million plan for energy conservation and air quality improvements and school security upgrades.

One of the most costly projects is replacing the HVAC and refrigeration/freezer system at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris for $2.1 million. The system leaks Freon gas and has created mold issues.

Another is replacing the boiler at Otisfield Elementary School. The boiler has been condemned.

Other expenses involve security improvements at several of the district’s schools.

Citing the precarious economic state as the coronavirus threat continues, some directors questioned if the timing is appropriate to green light such expensive work.

At issue is the lead time to manufacture equipment and materials that contractor Siemens would have to order and the scheduling required to complete the work at the high school over the summer.

Directors requested that the Finance Committee review the overall project and provide a more detailed breakdown for each segment at the next meeting and to discuss possible ramifications of delaying some of the work.

After a motion narrowly passed to table the measure for the evening, directors voted unanimously to vote on a revised recommendation at the May 4 board meeting.

Siemens’ representative Tom Seekins attended Monday’s meeting held via the internet and confirmed the company would be able to move forward with the $2.1 million high school project if the board votes to proceed at that time.

The Finance Committee has continued its weekly meetings even with difficulties working around coronavirus precautions. Committee Chairman Barry Patrie said the group has two more sessions scheduled and is close to having a budget ready for the board to review.

The board also unanimously approved the district’s remote learning plan and the fiscal year 2020-21 school calendar.

Superintendent Rick Colpitts expressed his appreciation to the board for its support to administrators and faculty as they tackled educating and feeding children across eight towns. He also recognized the efforts of all employees in SAD 17 to put distance learning in place once schools closed in March.

SAD 17 will continue distance learning at least until May 1 and possibly longer.

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