The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 5, 2014

It's a big deal

The Register-Herald

— Raleigh County voters have a big decision to make Saturday, one in which we hope that a good majority of them will participate.

Citizens will go to the polls to decide whether to extend the excess levy for another five years. The levy helps fund a lot of extras for the schools, as well as enabling the Raleigh board to pay teachers a bit extra, hopefully enticing them to stay in the county.

While important, the excess levy, which has been continuously in effect since 1941, isn’t the biggest question before the voters. The big deal is the $39.5 million bond call.

What the Raleigh Board of Education wants to do is sell bonds in that amount to fund construction of new schools and make much-needed improvements to others. When selling the bond, the board will promise to repay the $39.5 million with at least 6 percent interest in no more than seven and a half years.

Yeah, that is a big, fat, hairy deal — to borrow an expression from cartoon cat Garfield.

Educating our children, who will be the leaders of tomorrow, is also a big, fat, hairy deal. And there is no doubt that is a hard task when faced with antiquated, out-dated facilities.

We support this bond call. One of the schools to be replaced, Stratton Elementary, is 75 years old and little has been done to it over those years. It’s long past time that these older facilities are upgraded or replaced as necessary to give children the best environment in which to learn.

We do add a caveat to our support.

Other bond-funded projects have not turned out so well. A case in point is Beckley-Stratton Middle School. Just months after its opening during the 1998-99 school year, it was reported by the School Building Authority that it was among schools not conducive to learning because of problems with air quality, HVAC and electrical system.

Just last year, the SBA awarded the school a $1 million grant to fund a new roof, a complete reconfiguration of the HVAC system, replace windows and to make electrical upgrades.

Beckley Elementary, which opened n 2004, now needs a new gym. Was no foresight used in planning that school?

Our caveat is that the Raleigh County Board of Education makes certain that the plans for the new schools and improvements are of the highest standards that such issues do not occur and that they can meet future needs.

We urge ALL Raleigh County voters to consider to get out and vote. A minority of the citizens should not decide the issue for the majority.