The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 21, 2013

Schools move ahead on facilities plan

By Sarah Plummer
Register-Herald Reporter

— Raleigh County Schools is in the process of conducting an annual review of its 10 Year Comprehensive Facilities Plan established in 2010, and it is expected to submit a proposal to the West Virginia School Building Authority Dec. 1, seeking funds for a project or projects to meet the county’s facility needs.

Board President Richard Snuffer said the board of education has been working with architectural firm Silling Associates, of Charleston, to assess and estimate the cost of each school’s needs. He said the board will then hold a series of public information forums in April or May to help prioritize those needs and to weigh voters’ interests in passing a bond.

“I have said that every child in Raleigh County deserves a school as good as Marsh Fork. We plan on going to the School Building Authority, dipping into our reserve and going to the voters to see if we can take care some of our deficiencies,” Snuffer said.

Superintendent Jim Brown explained that each school is being examined to identify what improvements need to be made to HVAC systems, lighting, roof, plumbing, technology and safety to be in compliance with West Virginia Board of Education policy.

Brown said the administration feels the top priorities for the district are, “to make sure we are providing a learning environment that supports student outcomes around achievement.

“We want to make sure our teachers have the resources and supports in the classroom to maximize their ability to teach. We are fortunate in Raleigh County that we have some very well maintained buildings, but we do have some buildings that have exceeded their ability to provide a 21st Century learning environment,” he elaborated.

Assistant Superintendent David Price explained that the county’s oldest facilities are elementary schools built in the 1940s, like Crab Orchard, Sophia Soak Creek and Mabscott.

“When you look at technology integration in schools, you have to consider the wiring and infrastructure that supports what our students need,” he said.

Brown noted that another major priority is if older buildings, including the secondary schools built in the 1960s, can support the expected level of modern safety and security features.

Brown also said another key area of focus is the ever growing enrollment in the Shady Spring area.

“We have schools in the Shady area that have seen a significant increase in enrollment and that has to be addressed,” he explained. “We have students in modular classrooms. Both Shady Spring High School and Shady Spring Elementary are a top priority because they are undersized to meet the needs of the current population and we can expect future growth in that area,” Brown said.

Brown stressed the administration and school board is still “trying to define the scope of work” and it has not been determined if there will be renovations, additions, new constructions or closures.

“This is not a process that happens overnight. We are preparing to begin communication with all stakeholders across the district, the community, business leaders and the school system. We see where some schools that are very small could be closed,” he said, also noting that the School Building Authority will not fund a renovation project if it will cost less to build a new school.

“But the next step will be getting input from all stakeholders. The board has decided we are going to seek a lot of input from the community to make sure we are hearing from them what they think their schools need and how we can best serve the communities.”

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com