SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. — Nicholas County School Superintendent Donna Burge-Tetrick says she was always confident something would be worked out to replace the county’s school buildings that were destroyed in the June 2016 flood.
Those efforts got their biggest boost to date earlier this week when the Federal Emergency Management Agency signed off on a plan with county school leaders and the state Board of Education for new schools in Richwood and near Summersville. FEMA will provide $160 million for the construction with the state picking up just short of $18 million.
Burge-Tetrick said Thursday the key to reaching the agreement was the mediation process that began between those involved back in March. She said it opened the lines of communication.
“It helped everyone to understand the different perspectives and concerns and now, as a result of the mediated agreement, I believe we have two high schools that will be sustainable for a long period of time,” Burge-Tetrick said.
In the months after the flood, the state Board of Education twice rejected local school board plans to combine five schools — Richwood Middle and Summersville Middle schools and Nicholas County and Richwood High Schools, along with the Career and Technical Education Facility — into one school.
The mediated plan includes building a new Richwood High School on property the school board already owns at Cherry River Elementary. A new Richwood Middle will also be on that site. A new Nicholas County Middle School, Nicholas County High School and technical education center will be constructed at the Glade Creek Business Park.
The next step will be environmental studies on both properties. Burge-Tetrick said the preliminary information she’s looked at doesn’t point to any potential issues. She said the studies still may take six months but after they are completed construction can begin.
The school communities are going to play a significant role in school design, Burge-Tetrick said.
“What’s been presented so far is a conceptual design. So the community will have a large part in the helping of the design of their school,” she said.
Once the new Nicholas County High School building is completed, the county will retrofit the current Nicholas High building and convert it into a new school for Summersville Elementary.
“We’ll have great facilities that will benefit all of the students in the county for generations to come without being on the backs of taxpayers,” Burge-Tetrick said.
If all goes right, the new schools should finished in two to three years.
“That’s with us really managing our timeline and moving aggressively toward everything completed,” Burge-Tetrick said.
Nicholas County had until Sept. 26 to come up with an approved plan or face the possibility of losing FEMA funding.
“Everyone really worked well together and wanted to get across that line as quickly as possible,” Burge-Tetrick said.