West Virginia School Building Authority staff think Fayette County should get $20 million to combine two Meadow Bridge schools into one prekindergarten- through 12th-grade school.
But as for Kanawha County’s $5.5 million request to add four classrooms and eliminate three trailer classrooms at Kanawha City Elementary, plus extensively renovate the school? Might be better luck next year.
“Current conditions of the existing facility warrants improvement of the school environment; however, other projects may be more meritorious,” the staff’s written comments say of the Kanawha project. “Consideration may need to be given to funding this project in a future funding cycle.”
In all, 26 county school boards requested about $130 million from the SBA for school renovation and construction projects as part of this year’s annual “needs” grant cycle. But the SBA says it only plans to give out $27.9 million for new projects Tuesday, with hopefully more one-time money appearing in March.
SBA Executive Director David Roach said the SBA is actually handing out more than $27.9 million in needs grant funding this year, but that includes projects the board promised to fund in past years.
The board is set to vote Tuesday on how to dole out the funding. The public meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. in the 10th floor conference room of the West Virginia Lottery Building, at 900 Pennsylvania Ave. in Charleston. The board’s Finance Committee meets 30 minutes before that.
The only projects SBA staff members are recommending funding are those requested by Fayette, Hampshire, Harrison and Marion counties. (You can read about all the requests by clicking on the last link on this page.)
In past years, staff only publicly revealed which projects they were recommending their board fund on the day the board was set to vote on which counties would get the money.
In another new move, the SBA board held a meeting Monday to discuss, among other things, the staff’s recommendations. The recommendations were attached to that meeting’s online agenda.
Board members didn’t mention Kanawha’s exclusion from the recommendations Monday. But board member Steve Burton, of Wayne County, questioned why Fayette’s Meadow Bridge project was recommended and Raleigh County’s new Stratton Elementary project wasn’t.
Raleigh is requesting $8.9 million, with the county providing $7 million, to build a new Stratton Elementary, complete with solar panels and a geothermal heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that should make the school generate as much power as it uses, according to SBA staff comments.
The current building was constructed in 1939 as a high school.
“Due to the age of the structure and the original design for an older student population, adequate renovations are nearly impossible,” staff comments say. “The school has deficiencies related to improper air exchange requirements, power and data inadequacies, [Americans with Disabilities Act] inaccessibility, and access safety controls.”
Burton noted that Fayette — under the same county schools superintendent, Terry George — requested closing Meadow Bridge High in 2017.
That was part of a sweeping school consolidation plan that would have turned Meadow Bridge Elementary into a preK-8 school and sent the high schoolers to other communities. But state Board of Education members, including three who now sit on the 10-member SBA board, rejected the high school closure when they approved the other consolidations.
“A project that they didn’t want three years ago, we’re to fund it now?” Burton asked state school board President Dave Perry, who’s from Fayette and is also on the SBA board.
“Things change Steve,” Perry said. “They wouldn’t be here had we not changed their CEFP [Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan].”
SBA board Chairman Brian Abraham, general counsel for Republican Gov. Jim Justice, eventually got the two to stop their head-to-head, which Burton began with Perry.
The SBA board doesn’t have to follow the staff’s recommendations.
“That list don’t mean nothin’ to me,” Burton said at one point Monday. He later said he wasn’t questioning staff, but rather Fayette’s request.
Here are the projects SBA staff recommended funding, alongside some information about them from staff notes:
Fayette: Requesting $20 million, with the county providing no funds, to combine Fayette County’s Meadow Bridge Elementary, which has students up to sixth grade, and Meadow Bridge High, which has seventh through 12th grades, into one new school.
“The age and overall condition of both facilities is one of the worst that the staff has evaluated in the last few years,” the staff notes say. “The age and overall condition of this facility warrant immediate replacement.”
Hampshire: Requesting about $150,000, with the county providing no funds, to fix the plumbing in Capon Bridge Middle’s kitchen. The kitchen is currently closed, and food is being prepared at another school for delivery to Capon Bridge.
Kitchen waste currently flows into public sewer lines without going through the grease trap, and the pipes include 90-degree angles. These are sanitary code violations that weren’t discovered when the school was built in the 2000s.
Harrison: Requesting $6.1 million, with the county providing $2 million, for expanding and extensively renovating United High to turn it into Gore Elementary.
If approved, Adamston and Wilsonburg elementary students are planned to move into the new Gore Elementary. Wilsonburg’s current building would close and Adamston’s current building would be “reconfigured” to become United High, under the plan.
Marion: Requesting $1.6 million, with the county providing $1.6 million, to add eight classrooms to East Dale Elementary. This would allow for closing a building called the Meadowdale Annex, which is technically part of the same school but houses prekindergarteners and kindergarteners a half-mile from the main school.
“The septic system that serves the Meadowdale Annex has malfunctioned, and there is a noticeably strong odor around the school,” staff comments say. The annex also has three trailer classrooms that would be eliminated.