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School superintendents make requests for SBA for local projects

By JIM ROSS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Standing before members of the School Building Authority, Mercer County Superintendent Deborah Akers asked for $10.7 million to replace two 1920s-era elementary schools in Bluefield.

“You should give us the dollars for this because we found a flat piece of property,” she joked. “We own it. We’re ready to move, and we’re ready to get the project started.”

Akers was one of 28 superintendents who appeared before the School Building Authority Monday and Tuesday to request money for capital improvements in their districts.

Many of the projects were for expensive repairs to existing buildings, such as new roofs or new HVAC systems, while some counties asked for new school buildings.

The authority will take a few weeks to consider the requests, investigate them further and probably make decisions at next month’s meeting, said Steve Burton, authority vice president.

Clay County Superintendent Joe Paxton asked for $9.3 million to repair damage to Clay County High School from the 2016 Elk River flood. About $1 million is needed to repair foundation damage and locker rooms inundated by the flood, along with resultant moisture damage to a gym floor, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay half that, he said.

The federal agency would have paid the entire cost, but the school board did not have flood insurance on the building, Paxton said.

“We’ve never had flooding, obviously, in Clay County like we had last year. We had facilities in areas that were flooded that had never had water even close to them before,” he explained later.

The remainder of the money Paxton requested would pay for upgrades to electrical, HVAC and other systems in the school, as well as for security and cafeteria improvements, he said.

Cabell County Superintendent Ryan Saxe requested $6.8 million to build a new elementary school on the site of a 100-year-old vacant middle school building.

“It needs to come down anyway,” Saxe said of the middle school, which was replaced by a new building about four years ago.

The new elementary would replace a 1950s-era school a couple of blocks away. That school is cramped and has access problems because it is between a narrow residential street and a narrow alley, Saxe said. Cabell County has about half the money in hand to build the new school, Saxe said.

Authority members noted Cabell County Schools has had budget carryover the past few years and questioned if the county should receive money when systems in financial trouble have needs, too.

Saxe replied that the county’s career and technical center needs work, and the county has nine other elementaries that need upgrades or replacements. Some of those needs will be addressed in a bond levy that will be proposed next year, he said.

Mingo County Superintendent Donald Spence requested about $900,000 to move students from Gilbert Elementary School to Gilbert Middle School. The middle school is housed in the former Gilbert High School, which was replaced by a consolidation a few years ago.

The county will contribute $300,000 to the project, Spence said.

“All we’re asking to do is reconfigure the inside of the middle school to make it more accessible, because pre-K and kindergarten require more space,” he said.

The School Building Authority has about $50 million to allocate this year, which is about half of what the 28 superintendents requested.

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