CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state School Building Authority will put $48.8 million into school construction projects in West Virginia in the coming year, including $12.6 million for the first of a multi-year construction schedule in Fayette County.
“We don’t feel relieved. What we feel is that we were very fortunate to collaborate with the School Building Authority staff and the Department of Education,” said Terry George, superintendent of schools in Fayette County, soon after Monday’s SBA vote on needs projects.
A year ago, the SBA rejected Fayette County’s Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan which would have cost $39 million over a span of three years and consolidated four of Fayette County’s five high schools.
In the time since then, work has continued on an alternative plan to address the current and future needs of the struggling Fayette County school system which is home to some of the most dilapidated schools in West Virginia.
Because of the state of Fayette County’s schools, Cindy Chamberlin enrolled two of her children, who are in high school, in private schools last year.
“We’re spending their college funds just to be sure they’re going to be college ready,” she told MetroNews.
Chamberlin joined other Fayette County residents at Monday’s SBA meeting.
This year, Fayette County proposed a $22 million plan — with $12.6 million being the SBA’s contribution in the 1st year and $10 million next year. Local funds will total $17 million over the two years.
Initially, the funds will pay for the reconfiguration of the existing Collins Middle School and construction of a new PK-2 elementary school to include students from Collins.
Karen Ellis has a child attending school at Collins currently. “I just want to move forward,” she said of the Fayette County plan. “I want our kids out of modular trailers.”
In addition to Fayette County, the other school construction projects the SBA approved Monday were the following:
MONROE COUNTY $500,000
-The county had requested up to $14 million for a new PK-8 school in Peterstown. This is reserve grant money that is contingent on passage of an $8 million bond, according to the SBA.
MERCER COUNTY $7.8 million
-A new Green Valley Elementary School
BERKELEY COUNTY $4.9 million
-School energy systems upgrades
MONONGALIA COUNTY $2 million
-Classroom additions to South Middle School, the request had been for up to $3.2 million.
TAYLOR COUNTY $1.3 million
-HVAC upgrades at Taylor County Middle School
GREENBRIER COUNTY $4.8 million
-A new Rupert Elementary School being built as an addition to Western Greenbrier Middle School.
MASON COUNTY $790,720
-Roof replacements at five schools
MORGAN COUNTY $5.1 million
-Renovations to Berkeley Springs High School
CALHOUN COUNTY $189,545
-Renovations to wastewater treatment plant at Calhoun County Middle/High School
HARDY COUNTY $3 million
-New roof and other renovations at East Hardy Middle School
PLEASANTS COUNTY $457,695
-New entrance for ADA accessibility at Pleasants County Middle School
CLAY COUNTY $155,000
-Roof repairs at Clay County Elementary School
PRESTON COUNTY $1.3 million
-Repairs to four school roofs, the county had asked for money for six school roofs.
TYLER COUNTY $3.6 million
-HVAC upgrades at Tyler Consolidated Middle School
“We knew Fayette County was a priority. We knew there were some flooded counties, so we were just hoping for the best,” said Robin Daquilante, superintendent of schools in Tyler County. “We actually increased our local share, so we were hoping that would be in our favor.”
Overall, David Sneed, executive director of the SBA, said it was a good list.
“The Authority approved, really, all the staff recommendations and the projects that were approved beyond that were the projects that actually fit into the amount of money we had left to hand out, so we were really pleased with the list of projects,” Sneed said.
The counties that were denied funding for projects this cycle were in Cabell County, Ohio County and Wood County.
George said Fayette County has dealt with similar SBA rejection and tried to learn from it.
“We feel that we’ve put together a process that other counties who are struggling, such as a Fayette County, would want to follow,” he said. “We still have a long way to go, a lot of work to be done.”