Persistence paid off for Fayette County school officials Monday.

When the state School Building Authority announced $66,799,569 in projects it will finance during its coming funding cycle, the county was earmarked for money for a new elementary school in the Oak Hill area. The positive outcome occurred after Fayette came away empty-handed in 2002 and 2003 in its SBA requests.

Superintendent Helen Whitehair, Steve Pilato, president of the local board of education, and Missey Smith, board vice president, made the trip to Charleston to take in the SBA’s deliberations, and at the end of the day Monday, Fayette was among those with its name still on the board and, therefore, earning a seal of approval from the SBA.

“I felt pretty confident,” Pilato said shortly after the decision. “We learned from the first two failures ... to talk to the right people.”

“Apparently, we’ve done that,” Pilato said.

Fayette officials requested $9,099,000 to construct a new elementary school which will combine the student bodies of three existing elementary schools — Oak Hill, Oak Hill East End and Scarbro — into one facility. The resulting student population will be about 675 in grades K-4.

The county will receive its funding in a two-year cycle, with $4,383,540 targeted for July 2006 and a similar amount to be forwarded in July 2007. The county will kick in the remaining $331,000 to the project, Whitehair said.

“I am so pleased,” the superintendent declared. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the county, for Oak Hill and for the students.”

Smith called Monday “a great day for Fayette County.”

“We pretty much funded (Fayette’s) full amount, but over a two-year period,” explained Dr. Clacy Williams, SBA executive director. “Fayette’s project will get rid of some old buildings that have problems ... and get those students into a new building.

“That’s a good thing.”

The first installment will enable the county to proceed with design and other preliminary steps before construction begins, officials say. The earliest students could be in the new school would be the 2008-09 school year.

Other area school systems also came away smiling Monday. Raleigh County was awarded $5.3 million from current available funds for the new Fairdale Elementary School.

“This is fantastic news for the children and families in that area,” said Raleigh County Board of Education member Judi Almond. “We are very thankful to the state School Building Authority for these funds.”

Almond said she believed the total cost to design and build a new school would be around $9 to $10 million dollars.

“We have always been able to come up with matching funds for needed projects,” she said.

Almond said the new school would be built on property the school board already owns.

Raleigh board member Dr. Tom Nuckols said the need for a new Fairdale school was a top priority for the board.

“Fairdale was at the top of our list,” he said. “I am just elated that the SBA recognized the need for this new school. With all the projects around the state hoping to get SBA funding, the people of Raleigh County should feel very fortunate that the SBA looked on us favorably.”

Board member Patricia Waddell said she had hoped the SBA would see the need to give funds for a new Fairdale Elementary School, but didn’t want to be too hopeful.

“The children that attend Fairdale Elementary School have been in need of a new school for sometime,” she said. “This funding is wonderful news and it will allow us to make a much better learning environment for the children that attend the new school in the future.”

Board member Richard Snuffer III, who lives in Glen Daniel, said Fairdale was one of the oldest elementary schools in the county.

“It is one of the only schools still using coal heat,” he said. “I know the community will be very happy about having a new school. My three children went to Fairdale and I also attended the old Fairdale school. This new school will be a great asset for the community.”

Board President Kim Cooper and Superintendent Dr. Charlotte Hutchens did not immediately return telephone calls Monday evening.

Summers County was given $3,394,936 for a new Talcott Elementary School. Superintendent Vicki Hinerman also did not immediately return a telephone call on Monday evening.

Also receiving money will be Monroe County, which will get $621,235 for renovations to the Monroe County Technical Center, and Wyoming County, which will receive $704,388 for renovations to Berlin McKinney Elementary School.

McDowell County needs $1.3 million for structural renovations at Mount View Middle/High School. The authority funded that project out of emergency funds not included in the $67 million.

All told, 25 counties got some sort of funding. The largest financial package doled out was $5,735,193 to Hardy County for the new Moorefield Intermediate School.

Register-Herald Business Editor Fred Pace and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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