Suzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nEvery 10 years, boards of education are required to draft a Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan \u2013\u00a0or CEFP. The plan encompasses all facility-related projects in regard to school buildings owned and operated by the board.\r\n\r\nIt is time once again for the Pocahontas County Board of Education to form a committee and create the CEFP, with the help of educators and community members, to address the needs of its five schools. Superintendent Terrence Beam said the CEFP is one of the biggest projects that the board undertakes each decade.\r\n\r\n\u201cI would really like to recruit community members who have a genuine interest in the future of the direction of Pocahontas County Schools to serve on this committee because what we will be deciding is what facility needs and changes we need to make or try to correct within the next ten-year period,\u201d Beam said.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cWe truly want people from all over our county to have enough interest in our school system where they will want to join us on this committee and sit down, and have real frank discussions on what we do about our buildings.\u201d\r\n\r\nAlong with community members and school staff, the CEFP committee will have an architect on board who will assist with logistics when the list of renovations or upgrades is created.\r\n\r\nThe CEFP can be seen as a shopping list\u00a0\u2013 a priority list of changes that need to be made to the school buildings. Whether it be making additions to buildings, closing one school and consolidating it with another, or adding amenities like air conditioning \u2013 all ideas for upgrades will be considered and placed in order of priority.\r\n\r\n\u201cThat\u2019s where you make your decisions about combining schools,\u201d Beam said. \u201cThat\u2019s where you make decisions about air conditioning schools. That\u2019s where you make decisions about relocating schools. All the things that we talk about every day in this business, that\u2019s when you make these decisions.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cWe really need some people who have some ideas on how we can improve our schools,\u201d\u00a0he continued. \u201cWe\u2019re going to have to make decisions in this county because with the number of students we have, which is now under one thousand students, I don\u2019t see any way, financially, we can survive keeping five schools open. I\u2019m not saying close any particular school. I\u2019m just saying five buildings is really hard to keep up and staff, and keep renovations on, and keep insurance on all these things when you have limited funds. This committee is going to help point us in the right direction. They're going to help us decide what we need to do about our buildings.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe CEFP acts as a guideline for where the board's focus needs to be when applying for grants. Every time the board applies to the School Building Authority \u2013 SBA \u2013\u00a0the CEFP comes into play. The SBA will review the grant application and the CEFP to see where the applications request falls on the priority list.\r\n\r\n\u201cThey automatically look at the first item on your priority list,\u201d Beam said. \u201cWhen you go to the SBA and you pick out something to ask for money, and it\u2019s number six on the list, they\u2019ll say, \u2018wait a minute? What about the first five that you\u2019ve listed?\u2019 That\u2019s why the prioritization is so important. You\u2019ve got to make sure that what\u2019s the most important is number one on the list.\u201d\r\n\r\nBeam wants to emphasize that the board always applies to the School Building Authority and not the Small Business Administration, which happens to have the same acronym.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere is some confusion over what SBA stands for,\u201d he said. \u201cSBA stands for School Building Authority. It was established by the legislature in the 1980s, and its sole purpose is to take money that the legislature allocates to them each year to try and meet some of the needs of county school system facilities.\u201d\r\n\r\nBeam is recruiting community members for the committee now and said the first meeting will be held in mid-March or April to begin work on the plan. After the initial meeting, the CEFP committee will hold community meetings throughout the county to gather input from as many people as possible.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe want business leaders, community leaders,\u201d he said. \u201cThey don\u2019t have to have kids in school. They could just care about their community, and they want what\u2019s best for the community. It\u2019s a learning process, too. These people who come onto this committee \u2013 we can educate them on how this works, how we apply for money and how we\u2019re eligible for money.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re really looking forward to getting this process started,\u201d he continued. \u201cI\u2019m hoping we\u2019ll have a lot of input from community members. We\u2019ve got a lot of great people in Pocahontas County who care about the school system and have good ideas.\u201d\r\n\r\nThose interested in serving on the CEFP committee may contact Beam at 304-799-4505.