BOE continues facility improvements
For the past two to three years, the Pocahontas County Board of Education has seemed preoccupied with the status of its facilities, specifically the school buildings – and with good reason. The buildings range in age from 30 to 50 years and are starting to show the wear.
To get the buildings back in shape, the board applied to the West Virginia School Building Authority several times for MIP – Major Improvement Projects – for funding up to one million dollars. The applications are specific to one school, and if funding is approved, the monies must be spent on that one school.
Last week, superintendent Terrence Beam spoke about the progress of two MIP projects – one near completion and one ready for bid.
The first MIP was for improvements to Pocahontas County High School and included a new sewer system, water tower, a new roof for a portion of the vocational building and new doors and windows for the vocational building.
“We got our sewer system switched over yesterday,” Beam said happily. “So our new sewer system at the high school is now working. It’s working on its own. It runs real quiet. In the spring, we’ll have the old system dug up and hauled off, and then have fill dirt put in.”
The other portion of the PCHS project will begin in the spring with the installation of a new water tower and completion of the vocational building renovations.
“They’re actually going to try to relocate [the water tower] I think, on a little bit higher piece of property,” Beam said. “If we ever do something about the high school and build a new high school or whatever – I’m not trying to start rumors – we’re trying to think ahead. If we ever do do that and have to have a new sprinkler system, we need more water pressure. That’s the reason we’re wanting to set the tank higher up in elevation.”
The fire alarm system at PCHS was also included in the MIP, but there was a slight set back with that project due to bids coming in over budget. Beam said the board will go through a re-bidding process and hope to get the system replacement underway this school year.
With the PCHS MIP close to completion, the board is now focusing its attention on the Green Bank Elementary-Middle School MIP which was awarded last summer.
The project was only funded for half of the application amount, but it will still include work on the school’s foundation, sewer system, sprinkler system, fire alarm system and furnace.
“This is going to help alleviate a lot of those issues,” Beam said. “Then, we have to look ahead.”
As the board enters the bidding process for the GBEMS project, it is also time for the board to decide if it will apply for another MIP grant and if so, which school will be the focus of the project.
“I’m going to meet with our board real soon about our projected applications for another MIP this summer,” Beam said. “One of the things we’re strongly considering is to go back to the SBA and try to get the rest of the money for Green Bank that we didn’t get the first time. There are a lot of issues at that school that need to be rectified, so that’s what we’re going to be working on this spring.”
If the board decides to choose GBEMS for the next MIP, the project will focus on the roof of the elementary wing, which was not previously awarded. The board could also decide to apply for a project at another school.
Beam added that if a MIP project does manage to come in under budget, the board does not have to return the leftover funds to the SBA and instead is able to use it for more improvements on the same school. For example, if the GBEMS project is under budget, the board could use the excess funds to replace other items at that school, but only at that school.
Being focused on the facilities is timely for the board because the next big project is the county’s Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan – CEFP. The living document is a 10-year plan for all the county school facilities in which improvements are ranked by priority.
“That will be coming up this summer, early fall, and we’ll be asking for people who have an interest in it to be on our committee to help us make these decisions,” Beam said. “We’re going to be reaching out to community people to see if they have an interest, and we hope that they will.”
Beam said it is important to know the priority of projects for the next 10 years because the SBA reviews the CEFP when it receives applications for funding.
“You have to do it in a list of your highest priority to your lowest priority,” Beam said. “You may say you want to do something with the high school – or you may want to do something with Marlinton Elementary School – whatever is number one on that list is what SBA looks at when you go to them for money.”
The committee formation will begin in the summer or early fall, and the community will be advised as to when the meetings will be held.
Beam also gave an update on the school calendar, and said there have been only three snow days so far, which will not affect the last day of school.
“This is our third snow day and with the new laws that are in effect – since we have extra time in our day for instruction – we do not have to make up the first five snow days,” he said. “It’s called accrued time and so that’s built into our schedules. Then the next five days – we have a snow packet program and we have reminded the teachers to have the snow packets ready because you never know when you’re going to get a week off because of bad weather.”
Each snow day after the first 10 will have to be made up later in the year. As it stands now, the calendar will remain the same and the last day of instruction is May 21.
Beam said the calendar has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years, but he feels confident that the current calendar is the best the system has had in a while. He is currently working on the school calendar for 2019-2020 and said he will send out a survey to get suggestions for the calendar before it is approved.
There will also be two public hearings about the calendar – Mondays, February 11 and February 25, at 5:30 p.m., – prior to the regular board meetings, at the board of education conference room in Buckeye.