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SBA begins hearing school construction proposals for NEEDs grant funding

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state School Building Authority is hearing from superintendents in 26 county school systems who are seeking funding for critical projects this year.

Jeff Kelley

Jeff Kelley, superintendent of Lincoln County Schools, on Monday asked the SBA for $24.9 million in NEEDs Grant funding to help build a new Duval Area PK-8 School.

“We’re trying to get a high quality facility for our students and I think there’s a great need there,” Kelley told MetroNews during the SBA meeting in Charleston.

Under the plan, the existing Midway Elementary School would close and all PK-8 students from Duval PK-8 and Midway Elementary School will attend the new facility. Hundreds of students would be impacted by the change.

“No body wants to lose their school, but at the same time, I think there’s a general understanding that there’s a need for a new facility for students at both schools. There’s a sadness that comes with that, but there’s also some excitement,” Kelley said.

The current Duval school was closed after it was declared structurally unsafe for students. Issues include HVAC equipment, roofing and mold.

“They’re old. They were constructed in the early 1950s. We’ve had significant facility structural issues at the Duval site. Just natural wear and tear on both buildings is taking its toll,” Kelley said.

Children are currently being bused to three different schools this year to fill the void.

The SBA funds, if approved, would be used in partnership with a local contribution of $2.7 million for a total project cost of $27.7 million in Lincoln County.

Ryan Saxe

Cabell County School is seeking $10 million from the SBA. Superintendent Dr. Ryan Saxe also presented the district’s proposal Monday. It includes the construction of a new Meadows Elementary School.

Saxe said the aging building is in a bad location with heavy traffic, doesn’t have a sprinkler system or an updated HVAC system.

“Those renovation costs, along with some of the safety concerns, make it more advantageous for us to build a new school than it is to address what we currently have,” Saxe said.

The school system would contribute $6.9 million for total project cost of $16.9 million.

Saxe said Cabell County passed a $87.5 million school construction bond in Aug. 2020.

“It was actually one of the largest bonds ever passed in the state of West Virginia for school construction. As part of that bond proposal, we’re asking the School Building Authority for a 9 percent cost share to be able to help us complete the new Meadows Elementary School,” he said.

The existing Meadows Elementary School would be demolished and the more than 200 students would attend the new facility.

Having a new school building would improve overall education, Saxe said.

“I think that you have to look at your environment for learning spaces so that when you’re offering exceptional learning opportunities, you need to be able to have a space that is conducive for those learning activities to take place,” he said.

The SBA heard from 13 school superintendents Monday and will hear proposals from the remaining 13 Tuesday at 9 a.m.

The authority will grant school districts roughly $70 million to $80 million total.

SBA staff will then compile all information gathered in the discussions and site visits. Funding recommendations will be made at the Dec. 13 quarterly meeting.

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