TRAVERSE CITY — The Montessori School at Glenn Loomis Elementary could be the first Traverse City Area Public Schools building with solar panels on its roof, but it won't come cheap.
The Montessori Parent Teacher Organization voted to commit $10,000 to get the project started, and PTO member and Traverse City Commissioner Tim Werner vowed to raise another $10,000 from community partners.
The decision to dedicate the money was a close one at a special PTO meeting last week.
Sixty members voted on three options: Support the project and commit $10,000, support the project but solicit outside funding, or don't support the project at all.
Twenty-one voted to support the project and fund it, 20 wanted to seek outside funding sources, and 19 wanted to nix the idea all together.
Werner, who proposed the project, said there will be at least 100 solar panels installed, but possibly "several hundred."
"We're still very much in the early stages of figuring it out," he said.
Lower elementary instructor and PTO member Angela Stricker supports the panels. She said it aligns with the Montessori biomes curriculum that's used with toddlers through sixth-grade students and would provide hands-on learning.
"Care of the environment is a big part of Montessori," Stricker said.
PTO treasurer Melissa Siler-Weaver said the organization's cash balances going into next school year are just over $16,000 without taking into account the $10,000 commitment to the solar panel project.
That would leave roughly $6,000 to either save for the following year's budget or to pay for things like field trips and extra classroom supplies. Siler-Weaver views either scenario as a loss for students and teachers.
"To justify taking $10,000 out of a budget to a school that's already accustomed to having materials and experiences, the Montessori PTO would be struggling," she said. "If we are asked to make cuts, it impacts all 350 students that are in that building."