CHARLESTON, W.Va. — School leaders from 19 counties can breathe a sigh of relief after Monday’s School Building Authority meeting.
The SBA awarded eight counties NEEDS grant funding for construction projects totaling nearly $46 million and awarded 11 other counties over $26 million in funding from an investment fund for roofing/HVAC projects.
“It’s a wonderful day to be able to get this funding and be able to take care of much-needed upgrades at Clay County High School,” Joe Paxton, Clay County Schools Superintendent, said. “We are just very happy to have had this opportunity
“It’ll open up avenues within our schedule, health and security within our school. Certainly, security upgrades are one of the number one priorities that we put within our county.”
Clay County was one of the eight counties awarded. The county will receive just over $9 million for additions and renovations to Clay County High School.
Other counties awarded were Monroe ($11 million), Fayette ($6.6 million), Putnam ($2.5 million), Ohio ($9 million), Mingo ($1.7 million), Summers ($4.1 million), and Upshur ($2.2 million).
Putnam County’s project being awarded will allow for additions to Hurricane High School including five classrooms, a resource room, STEM Lab, and a new classroom for special needs students. According to John Hudson, the Putnam County Schools Superintendent, Hurricane is experiencing overcrowding with a 95 percent room utilization rate.
“This means a lot for Hurricane High School,” he said. “This seven-room addition will help the school in a lot of ways. Not only just space but with some innovative programs with some of our special needs students, our science lab, STEM lab, perhaps some robotics, and our collaborative group areas.
“For our special needs students, we’re looking at a classroom that has a lot to offer. It may have showers, it may have individuals restrooms so it allows our teachers to do more with students who may have severe needs.”
Hudson and Paxton both did not provide any timeline on when construction may start with the projects but did want to start as soon as possible.
The process selecting certain counties was not the same as in the past, according to SBA Vice President Steve Burton. When it came time to select counties to be awarded, SBA Board Member and President of the WV BOE David Perry moved quickly to approve the eight counties with the highest SBA Staff Ratings with a motion. A couple of board members were against that motion, such as Burton and Robert Holroyd, wanting to see more discussion on the projects. The board decided to hear out all of the counties’ project proposals in front of a crowded room.
“The differences in procedures and how we would nominate a project to be funding compared to the way we had done it in the past, it would all come back,” Burton said. “The same projects were funded that probably would have been funded the old way, so the kids win out. We funded a lot of projects, a lot of roofs, a lot of additions and in the end, it all worked out and the kids will benefit from it.”
After the county-by-county breakdowns, the board took a brief recess before coming back and approving the eight counties with the highest SBA Staff Rating would receive the funding.
“I think the recommendations to the authority were very powerful,” Perry said. “We listened to two days of these presentations, we’ve had all the information for the month so it was time to move ahead with the projects.
“I think this is a very special day when you can fund 70-percent of the total projects which is very unusual. To find the additional money to add to those projects, I think that shouldn’t be lost sight of.”
The additional money for roofing/HVAC projects came from an investment fund. Those counties include Calhoun, Wayne, Morgan, Pendelton, Randolph, Grant, Nicholas, Tucker, Lewis Pleasants, Braxton. All of the counties that applied for roofing/HVAC were approved except for Mineral. The county asked for roofing as part of a grant proposal with county-wide energy upgrades.
Mineral County joined Harrison, Kanawha, Roane, Webster, Tyler, Mason, and Gilmer as counties who were not awarded money. All 27 counties made presentations to the SBA in late October.
Some counties awarded for NEEDS grant funding already had some local funding, bringing the total funding in 19 projects to just over $99 million.