Brooke board sets bond issue for vote
WELLSBURG – Brooke County school officials are considering putting a bond issue to raise funds for a new middle school and two new primary schools on the ballot in the November general election.
The proposed bond issue was among matters discussed by the Brooke County Board of Education at a work session Thursday.
Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson reported on a meeting last week in Charleston with officials with the state School Building Authority, which grants funds for various school projects.
The meeting was arranged to discuss plans by Brooke County school officials to replace Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools with one centrally located middle school and the school district’s seven primary schools with two primary schools serving the northern and southern halves of the county.
The board hasn’t decided where the schools will be built. But it had core samples taken of areas west and east of Brooke High School to confirm it was feasible to build there.
The area west is a grassy parking area used by students during the school day and by those attending the school’s football games. The area east is the marching band’s practice field.
School officials also have discussed building the new primary schools near Franklin Primary School or on the football field behind Follansbee Middle School.
The board has eyed land already owned by the school district in an effort to reduce costs.
Construction of the three new schools are part of a 10-year comprehensive educational facilities plan approved by the school board in 2010. The plan was developed by the Wheeling engineering firm of McKinley and Associates with input from a committee of 43 educators and community members.
Kidder-Wilkerson said if the construction projects are approved by the state School Building Authority, the state board would provide up to 40 percent of the cost.
The remainder would come from the bonds, the amount of which must be determined.
The cost for the new middle school has been estimated at about $30 million, while costs for the two new primary schools have been estimated at $16 million to $20 million each.
Plans call for the bond issue to follow the expiration of the school district’s current 15-year bond issue, which raised $15 million for the construction of the Brooke High School Wellness Center and various improvements at the other schools.
Assistant Superintendent Marty Bartz said the state School Building Authority has suggested adding to the bond issue the addition of rooftop heat pumps and other measures to improve heating at the high school.
The cost for the improvements has been estimated at $6 million.
Brooke school officials on Thursday discussed what would happen to the existing schools.
It’s been suggested that once the new schools are completed, the old ones should be razed to prevent them from becoming an eyesore and safety hazard if unused.
The Hancock County bond issue that raised $56 million for a new elementary school also generated funds for the demolition of the three schools it will replace.
Board member Brian Ferguson said it will be difficult for some community members to see the demolition of the two middle schools, which had served as high schools before they merged into Brooke High School.
He said state school officials have suggested keeping the facades intact as a reminder of their role in the community, though he and others weren’t sure about the logistics involved; or incorporating their styles into the new middle school’s design.
The board also discussed selling the two school buildings to their respective cities, if they are interested.
Rob Robinson, the school district’s facilities supervisor, said some research should be done to see if there are stipulations on the properties’ deeds. He noted the land occupied by Bethany Primary School reverted to its former owner, Bethany College, when the school was closed.
Renamed the Judith R. Hurl Education Center, the school has been incorporated into the college’s education department.
The former Edgewood Primary School was sold, through a public auction, to Family of God Christian Center, a local church, after it closed.
Declining enrollment and rising cost to maintain aging facilities were cited by Brooke school officials for the two schools’ closing several years ago.
Similar arguments have been made for the merging of the current schools into newer buildings.
Kidder-Wilkerson noted the new schools must meet the state School Building Authority’s criteria for economy of scale, a ratio of students per square foot.
A failure to meet that standard has kept many Brooke County schools from qualifying for funds from the state board.
Enrollment for Brooke County schools are as follows: Beech Bottom Primary, 111; Colliers Primary, 212; Franklin Primary, 178; Hooverson Heights Primary, 166; Jefferson Primary, 255; L.B. Millsop Primary, 82; Wellsburg Primary, 248; Follansbee Middle, 509; Wellsburg Middle, 438; and Brooke High School, 1,047.
Board President Jim Piccirillo said new schools with modern facilities will boost the economy by attracting new businesses and residents.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)