Construction has begun on the solar panels at Dwyer Middle School, with 11 black T-shaped supports lining the front lawn below the historic building's entrance.
Jon Archibald, the assistant superintendent of administrative services for the Huntington Beach City School District, said crews would continue working on the site this week and likely install the panels early next week. He expected the school to begin operating on solar energy by the end of the school year.
"By the end of March, things should be pretty well along," Archibald said. "I don't know if they'll be producing power yet, but if not in March, probably in April."
Dwyer is expected to be the third campus in the district to have solar panels installed, following Smith and Seacliff elementary schools. Hawes Elementary School and Sowers Middle School are next in line, Archibald said.
The Dwyer project has been a source of contention since last fall, when parents found out that the district planned to implement panels in front of the 1930s building. More than 200 parents petitioned the district to move the panels to another location, and about as many students protested near the school Jan. 27.
Dwyer PTA President Gina Gleason said she felt disheartened when she saw the supports going up on the lawn.
"It's just atrocious," she said. "For generations and generations, they've been having the eighth-grade class picture out there. They've had the promotion picture out there for generations. And now we've already discussed with the principal that we're not going to be able to face that way and have the school in the background."
Although parents in recent weeks have discussed legal action against the district, Gleason said the project's opponents have split into two camps, with some wanting to pursue a lawsuit and others unsure what the costs of doing so would entail.
"If we go through the entire process, it will cost the district money, which will come out of our kids' pockets in the end," she said. "It will hit the classroom."
Attorney Ryan Easter, who has been in talks with parents, declined comment.