Hampshire County will close five elementary schools and build three new schools for those students, now that the state School Building Authority has pledged to chip in.
The Authority’s board voted Monday to provide the Hampshire school system $24 million over the next three years. That, combined with roughly $18.8 million the district is planning to borrow through selling bonds, is planned to fund the work.
Authority Executive Director David Roach said the usual December disbursement of tens of millions of dollars in school construction and renovation money is being postponed until April. He said that’s because the pandemic slowed counties’ development of their required new long-term school facilities plans.
But Hampshire successfully urged the agency to go ahead and promise to approve its funding request. Earlier this year, Hampshire voters approved raising their property taxes to pay down the debt for the new schools, and the district argued a delay to April would interfere with moving forward.
Roach said he expects the Authority to still have $51.4 million to distribute to other counties in April.
The following Hampshir elementaries, which the Authority said were built from around 1930 to 1965, will close: Augusta, John J. Cornwell, Romney, Slanesville and Springfield-Green Spring.
The students will be consolidated into new schools called Central, North and West. Capon Bridge, built around 1991, will remain.
Jeff Pancione, Hampshire’s superintendent, said “extremely old buildings” and declining population were the reasons for the consolidation. Opening dates aren’t yet clear, he said.
“We’re extremely elated over being funded and that allows us to continue to move forward,” he said.