HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind could possibly have its 10-year facilities improvement plan finished quicker and cheaper through a possible agreement with the Department of Defense.

The state Board of Education voted Wednesday at its meeting in Huntington to authorize the Romney-based schools to seek a partnership with the DOD’s Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) Grant Opportunity program.

The Schools for the Deaf and Blind will provide the materials and the IRT program the labor, according to schools administrator Mark Gandolfi.

“The Schools for the Deaf and Blind has projects that we need to complete to improve our campus and improve the educational and safety environments for our students and of course the military organizations have a need for training,” Gandolfi said.

Through the IRT program, various military personnel get the field construction experience they need, Gandolfi said.

“We have the potential ability to complete projects that would not otherwise be achievable,” he said. “We will have access to qualified personnel and heavy equipment at no cost. We will be working at mutually agreeing on projects.”

The pre-planning process is scheduled to start in Romney Thursday in a meeting with an official from the Air National Guard. Gandolfi said ultimately members of the Marine Reserves and Air Force Reserves may also help construct the projects.

According to the state Department of Education, “The estimated cost of this project for the state is $320,000.00, and the estimated savings to the state is $750,000.00. The estimated costs are predicated upon projects associated with the Seaton Hall Bakery Wing, Blue and Gold Cafeteria, Keller Hall, and IRC area parking. The Schools for the Deaf and Blind has the funds available to accomplish this project.”

There have been rumors that the future of the schools depends on whether the IRT program takes place. State BOE attorney Mary Catherine Tuckwiller said that isn’t true.

“The grant is unrelated to the future of the schools, which is strong, and we look forward to a positive future for the schools,” Tuckwiller said.

The state Board of Education fired Deaf and Blind Superintendent Martin Keller Jr. on Nov. 17. Tuckwiller also said Wednesday that move had nothing to do with IRT.

“The termination is entirely unrelated to the IRT program,” she said.

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