The West Virginia School Building Authority’s board voted Monday to disburse $74.9 million to seven counties for school construction and major renovation projects.
McDowell, Kanawha, Cabell and Wayne counties’ projects were among those denied funding, but those four projects were the next four recommended by the authority’s staff after their top seven recommendations. The authority’s board approved funding all seven top recommendations, with no dissent.
Most of the 10 board members were appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Also on the board are Gov. Jim Justice’s chief of staff, Brian Abraham, and state schools Superintendent Clayton Burch, who was the only member absent Monday.
All rejected counties will have another shot at winning funding in December. SBA Executive Director David Roach said he expects that another roughly $75 million will be available to distribute then.
Following is the fate of some of the major projects that counties proposed for funding in the grant cycle that ended Monday.
Kanawha County didn’t receive the $8.2 million it requested from the authority, with Kanawha pitching in about $2.1 million of its own money, for renovations and additions to the building that houses Cedar Grove Elementary and Cedar Grove Middle schools.
The single-story parts of that building would have been demolished, Kanawha school officials said. The middle school students would have been transferred to DuPont Middle, about 20 minutes away.
This fall, Cedar Grove Middle’s enrollment was about 160. Its peak over the past eight years was 176.
Kanawha schools Superintendent Tom Williams said that, at DuPont Middle, the former Cedar Grove students would have had new access to an in-person Spanish teacher, Algebra I and band.
Roane County received its requested $14 million from the authority, with Roane contributing $1.6 million from its own budget, for a new Spencer Middle that will be attached to Roane County High.
Authority staff said the existing building is next to a rubber plant.
“The current Spencer Middle School resides in the old Spencer High School facility and does not meet many codes and standards,” authority staff wrote. “Deficiencies include, but are not limited to, ADA [federal Americans with Disabilities Act] requirements, site and parking adequacy, HVAC [heating, ventilation and air-conditioning] / air exchange requirements and safe school measures. The aging school has significant air circulation, moisture, electrical and life safety issues.”
Wayne County didn’t receive the $23.9 million it requested from the authority, with Wayne providing $1 million from its own coffers, to add to and renovate Buffalo Middle School and turn it into a prekindergarten-eighth-grade school.
That would have allowed Buffalo Elementary students to move there. The elementary school would have been torn down.
The buildings are almost right across the road from each other.
McDowell County didn’t receive the $18.7 million from the authority, with McDowell contributing none of its own money, to build a new school to consolidate three: Fall River, Kimball and Welch elementary schools.
The new school would have been built on 12 acres next to the new football field at Mount View High, which is a sixth- to 12th-grade school.
Kimball and Welch are in the 100-year floodplain, authority staff wrote. Fall River would have become the new home of the county’s vocational school, which is a 13-minute drive from the elementary school.
McDowell noted in its closure proposal documents that enrollment is declining — it dropped 17% countywide from fall 2014 to fall 2019 — and officials said they wanted to use limited money more efficiently. McDowell said the consolidation would have allowed it to cut about 20 positions and halve the required number of bus routes.
State board policy recommends that elementary school students spend no more than 30 minutes one way on a bus. McDowell said its 13 remaining routes would have started from about 30 minutes for the earliest pick-up and ranged up to 55 minutes, one way. For six of these 13 routes, McDowell officials said, the travel time would have been the same or less than it is now.
Mineral County received its requested $19.1 million from the authority, with Mineral giving $2.1 million from its own budget, to build a new Frankfort area school to consolidate Fort Ashby Primary, Wiley Ford Primary and Frankfort Intermediate schools. Mineral will receive its funding over two fiscal years — half now, and half in December.
Authority staff had said “these three schools are in very poor condition” with “numerous health and safety deficiencies,” including “metal debris” in Frankfort Intermediate’s drinking water supply. Students and workers there use bottled water.
Cabell County didn’t receive its requested $10 million from the authority, with Cabell pitching in $7 million, to build a new Meadows Elementary.
“The existing Meadows Elementary School building is an antiquated facility that has many health and safety deficiencies,” authority staff wrote. “The existing facility does not meet current indoor air quality standards, ADA accessibility requirements and utility demands.”
The new school would have been about 2 miles from the existing building, which would have been demolished, authority staff wrote.
Mercer County received its requested $9.6 million from the authority, with Mercer contributing $5 million, for a new school to consolidate Bluewell and Brushfork elementaries.
The new school will be located 2.5 miles from the existing Bluewell building and 6.6 miles from Brushfork, authority staff wrote.
“The existing Bluewell and Brushfork Elementary Schools are similar in that they are aging, antiquated buildings that have many health and safety deficiencies,” authority staff wrote. “The existing buildings do not meet current indoor air quality standards, ADA accessibility requirements and utility demands. Both schools have portable classrooms that are in poor condition.”
Jefferson County received its requested $7.5 million, with Jefferson providing $32.5 million of its own money, for a new Shepherdstown Elementary and a new Ranson Elementary.
The new sites are both within 2 miles of the existing buildings, and both sites are planned to incorporate older students in future expansions, authority staff wrote.
They wrote that Jefferson residents voted in November to approve funding for these projects.
The existing Shepherdstown Elementary property will be sold, and the former Ranson Elementary will be used for special-needs alternative programming, adult education or a combination of multi-generational learning, the authority staff wrote.
“The existing Ranson and Shepherdstown Elementary schools are similar in that they are aging, antiquated buildings that have many health and safety deficiencies,” they wrote. “The existing buildings do not meet current indoor air quality standards, safe secure entrances and utility demands. Neither school has the space to serve prekindergarten.”
Ritchie County did not receive its requested $17.2 million from the authority, with Ritchie giving $9.2 million, for a new Harrisville Elementary and a new Creed Collins Elementary.
Authority staff wrote that both new schools would have been built on their existing sites, and both current buildings would have been demolished. They wrote that Ritchie residents previously voted to approve financing for these projects.
Greenbrier County received the $8 million it requested from the authority, with Greenbrier providing $3 million, to renovate the Alderson Community Center to house Alderson Elementary.
Authority staff wrote that the community center was previously Alderson Middle/High.
“The proposed renovations include floor plan adjustments, new HVAC, ceilings, lighting, sprinkler, windows, doors,” they wrote. “Proposed additions include four new classrooms, which will house pre-k and kindergarten students along with a dining room, kitchen, elevator and office suite.”
The current Alderson Elementary building, which has been flooded four times, will become the new community center, authority staff wrote.
Summers County received the $8.2 million it requested from the authority, with Summers pitching in no funds itself, for additions and renovations to Summers County High to better accommodate the former Summers Middle students who are now there. The middle school was abruptly closed before the start of this school year, after the new county superintendent said he noticed major building issues.
“The scope of the work will include an eight-classroom addition, a wellness area and a new cafeteria to house the middle school students,” authority staff wrote. “Six classrooms will be renovated in the existing facility to accommodate for the expanded course offerings.”
Ohio County received the $18 million it requested from the authority, with Ohio providing $5.3 million itself, for renovations to six schools: Wheeling Middle, Warwood PK-8, and Bethlehem, Elm Grove, Middle Creek and Woodsdale elementaries.
“Renovations at each school include security and safety improvements; classroom environment improvements; HVAC, electrical, lighting and other infrastructure upgrades; and fire alarm/life-safety system renovations,” authority staff wrote. They wrote that the county’s residents voted in 2018 to finance such projects.
There were 29 counties that requested funding in the grant cycle that ended Monday. The others denied funding were Berkeley, Calhoun, Gilmer, Grant, Lewis, Marion, Monongalia, Monroe, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Randolph, Taylor, Tucker, Tyler, Upshur, Webster and Wirt.
Combined, the 29 counties requested $230.4 million from the authority in this cycle, and offered to pitch in $99.4 million of their own funds.