With work underway on the Pocahontas County Schools Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan, superintendent Terrence Beam says it is important that people come together to share their views on the future of the county’s school system.
More than 30 individuals – including school principals, school employees and community members – have volunteered their time to work on the 10-year CEFP, which is a guideline for upgrades needed by the school facilities in the years 2020 to 2030.
The plan is a living document that will be open to changes and additions, but for the most part, the information collected by the committee will be the guide for the board office when time comes to apply for grant funding.
“It’s going to take a lot of discussion, because you’re going to have different facets from each part of the county arguing their point of what they think needs to be done for our entire county,” Beam said. “That’s where you get into some really difficult situations because people at Green Bank and people at Hillsboro, and people in Marlinton have different opinions of what we need to do.”
As the committee and it’s four sub-committees – Community Analysis, Education Plan, Goals and Objects and Major Improvement Plan – meet, they will also gather information from the public to ensure that the plan reflects the county’s vision for the future of education.
In preparation for the planning meetings, Beam reviewed the 2010-2020 CEFP and realized how many of the suggested changes have yet to be made.
“It’s very interesting,” he said. “For instance, at Green Bank, there are nine things listed. To what we could see, the only thing that’s been fully addressed is the roof replacement on the elementary wing and that won’t be done until 2020. It was suggested it be done by 2012, seven years ago.”
All the school suggestion lists were similar, in that only a few of the issues were fixed in the past 10 years. The reason is simple – things happen.
“It’s not the fact that the boards of education – the different boards that sat here have squandered the money,” Beam explained. “That’s not the case at all. It’s just that they only have a limited amount of money to work with, and when things come up and people say ‘we need this,’ ‘we need that,’ then you’ve got to make decisions, and some of these things get put off.
Issues like the Derecho, which tore off the HES roof and caused damage at GBEMS were not planned for, as well as the water leaks at MES and the break down of old furnaces. All those issues had to be addressed and so the suggested upgrades from the CEFP had to be put aside.
“It’s not just facility emergencies, either,” Beam said. “It’s staff emergencies that come up, and you have to put more money into staffing than what you planned. We had to do that this year already.”
The board and the CEFP committee must move forward and come up with a plan for the school system that will assist students in getting the best education possible.
One of the biggest upgrades that has been an issues for several years is the electrical capacity for all the technology used in education now. When the schools were built, there was no way of knowing how many electrical outlets each classroom would need in the 21st century.
And, with that added technology, comes heat. The most sought after upgrade for all the schools is air conditioning, which Beam said he knows will be a priority in all the schools.
“The one thing we talk about every year is air conditioning,” Beam said. “A hundred years ago when I was a kid, it seemed like our winters were much worse and our summers were not nearly as hot and humid as they are now. We start school in the middle of August. This year, some of our hottest days were at the end of September, first of October.”
Although he is superintendent of the schools, Beam said he has tried to let the CEFP committee be the ones to decide the priorities. But in the case of air conditioning, he wanted to put in his two cents worth.
“I’ve tried really hard not to put my stand on any of the CEFP – I want this to be a community thing,” he said. “But, to me, one of the top priorities is going to be to try to address air conditioning in our schools. How may schools we end up with, I don’t know. That’s their decision, but whatever we have, we need air conditioning in these buildings. If we want our kids to be comfortable and be able to learn, we need it.”
Beam has faith in the committee and knows that those involved have the best interests of the students at heart and are ready to make the sometimes difficult decisions that involve facilities.
“We have some very strong committee members,” Beam said. “The people who are on these sub-committees chose to serve our county in this process. They represent the community, and they are encouraged to reach out to the community to get their input.”