It’s hard to predict the future – even with a crystal ball or second sight – but that is what the Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan [CEFP] committee must do.
The CEFP is a 10-year living document that all boards of education in West Virginia must create to predict the upgrades and changes the school systems will need in the next 10 years.
The Pocahontas County CEFP committee held its first meeting last Wednesday to discuss the process of creating the plan.
Among the committee members are board members, teachers, board employees and community members who have volunteered their time to research what the school system needs in regard to facilities and academics.
Superintendent Terrence Beam opened the meeting with a brief overview of what the committee will do and what the CEFP will entail.
“One of the parts is to do a review of your facilities and decide what facilities need to be renovated or replaced or combined,” he said. “Also, academic programs. The requirements that the state has for academics change over a ten-year period.”
As members of the committee, Beam said everyone involved will have to reach out to the community to gather information on what direction they see the schools going and get a consensus of what they would like to see happen in the next 10 years.
“We encourage you to reach out to community members, because they will know you, and they will feel comfortable talking to you all about certain things in our county,” Beam said. “You’ll take that information, and you’ll share it with the general committee and with your sub-committee.”
The main committee is divided into four sub-committees – Goals and Objectives, Community Analysis, Education Plan and Major Improvement Projects. Each committee will collect data which will become the meat of the CEFP.
Along with a large group of community members working on the plan, Thrasher Group will assist with the process as the architectural firm for the project. The West Virginia Department of Education requires all boards of education to hire a firm to work on the CEFP.
Matt Breakey and Bill Radcliffe are the Thrasher Group representatives and have both had their fair share of work in West Virginia school systems.
Breakey said he has worked with school construction and design for 20 years and Radcliffe is a former member of the School Building Authority and has assisted with two other county CEFPs.
“Our role is as a resource for you to help guide you through the process,” Breakey said. “A big part of what we’re going to do initially, this summer, is the facilities evaluation. What we’re going to do with you is go into each of your facilities and assess the physical conditions of those facilities. It’s just a data gathering thing. We’re not making any decision at this point or determining if we need to do an addition or change something.”
Once the facilities evaluation is complete, the compiled data will be uploaded to a database – a new feature for this year’s CEFP collection. Breakey explained that the SBA has worked with SchoolDude to create a website which will make sharing the CEFP easier and more streamlined.
With the facilities information, the committee will move forward with creating a plan for what needs to be replaced, renovated or combined, and use that data to decide how the academic side will be altered.
“Once all that is pulled together, the next phase is to take all that data and translate it to educational needs and facility needs,” Breakey said. “All your educational needs, that will kind of generate the facility needs that will enable you to deliver that curriculum and that educational program going forward.”
Radcliffe said once the facilities evaluation is complete, then the sub-com- mittees will begin meeting and creating their parts of the CEFP.
“I think the consensus that needs to be developed and built here is just to maintain and keep up with what state requirements are as far as codes and education is concerned, and possibly look at curriculums for a county like Pocahontas County,” Radcliffe said, in regard to the educational plan.
The second phase, after the facilities evaluation, is an inter-county feasibility study that evaluates Pocahontas County’s relationship with surrounding counties. There have been instances in the past where neighboring counties have partnered to create a school in which both counties are financially responsible for the facility and Radcliffe said that even if it is not part of the plan for Pocahontas County, it does need to be considered.
As for facility needs, Radcliffe said the committee will have to look at the facilities evaluation and create a list of the projects that are either small upgrades or large improvement projects. These projects are the ones that will be submitted to the SBA for full or partial funding.
The SBA provides grants for Major Improvement Projects which receive no more than $1 million, while the Need Projects fund between $1 million, up to the amount needed for a new school.
The timeline Radcliffe laid out for the committee began with the facilities evaluations this summer, sub-committee meetings in September, followed by a full committee meeting, and a draft of the CEFP completed in December. After the CEFP is complete, there will be a public forum for the community. The board will then approve the final draft before submitting it to the SBA and the WVDE.