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Williams SBA

Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Tom Williams presents Monday to the state School Building Authority board members.

Twenty-six county school systems are requesting nearly $166 million from the West Virginia School Building Authority for school construction, consolidation and renovation projects.

The authority’s board members will vote in December on which projects to fund with the limited money the Legislature provides the state agency annually.

Authority Executive Director David Roach said he expects that the board will have about $80 million to $90 million to dole out in December. He tried to say that quietly during a break in Monday’s meeting on the proposals but, when it was clear a Gazette-Mail reporter heard him, he said “that’s an estimate.”

The proposed projects include:

  • Renovations to Kanawha County’s Cedar Grove Elementary that would include closing Cedar Grove Middle.
  • A new Meadows Elementary in Cabell County.
  • A new school to consolidate Ansted Elementary and Divide Elementary in Fayette County.
  • Renovating Buffalo Middle into a prekindergarten-8th grade school to close Buffalo Elementary in Wayne County.
  • A new Duval prekindergarten-8th grade school in Lincoln County.
  • A new school to consolidate McDowell County’s Fall River, Kimball and Welch elementaries.
  • New Harrisville and Creed Collins elementaries in Ritchie County.
  • A new Buckhannon-Upshur High in Upshur County.
  • Multiple others elsewhere, including for roof and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning replacements.

This is the second consecutive funding cycle that Kanawha’s school system has asked the authority to help fund the Cedar Grove Elementary renovations.

The single-story parts of the existing structure, which includes both Cedar Grove Elementary and Cedar Grove Middle, would be demolished.

“The center part of the building would be completely redone, remodeled and up-to-date for the kids,” Kanawha schools Superintendent Tom Williams told authority board members Monday.

The middle-schoolers would be transferred to DuPont Middle, about 20 minutes away.

“We currently have 66 facilities, way too many,” Williams said. “We need to start some consolidation.”

This time, Williams said the county will provide $3.3 million for the project, atop the $8.5 million it’s requesting from the authority.

Last time, Kanawha pledged to pitch in just $2.1 million. But it also was requesting slightly less from the authority, $8.2 million, meaning the overall project has become more expensive.

“We can thank COVID for all of that,” he said.

Cabell schools Superintendent Ryan Saxe said the new Meadows Elementary would be built about 2 miles away from the existing Meadows building. Cabell is requesting $10 million from the authority, and offering to pitch in $7 million itself.

Wayne and McDowell’s requested consolidation projects also are a return from the last funding cycle.

Lincoln’s request for a new Duval pre-K through 8 school comes after that county school system shuttered Duval’s building shortly before this school year began, citing safety concerns.

“We had to move an entire school within less than four weeks,” Lincoln Superintendent Jeff Kelley said.

Kelley said Duval’s students were disbursed to four buildings, including the school district’s central office, which is a former school, and Midway Elementary.

“The life expectancy on Midway is short as well,” Kelley said, “and we do not have a contingency plan for that scenario should it be shut down.”

Monday’s meeting and Tuesday’s, starting at 9 a.m., are held annually for superintendents to present their proposed projects to the Authority board. They generally don’t feature much discussion of which projects should be funded.

But Roach, the Authority executive director, did have a comment on Lincoln.

“We’re going to have to fund Lincoln,” Roach said.

“That’s an emergency situation,” he said.

Authority board member Steve Burton pointed out how much Lincoln is requesting.

It’s asking for $25 million and pledging $3 million of its own money. That’s the highest request among the 26 counties, and would be more than a quarter of Roach’s estimated available funding this year.

Ryan Quinn covers education. He can be reached at 304-348-1254 or Follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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