WELLSBURG - The Brooke County Board of Education discussed the feasibility of building a new middle school and new primary school near Brooke High School at a work meeting Wednesday.
The board has taken no action to build the schools, but it has been exploring options since a committee of staff and community members recommended it replace the county's two middle schools and nine primary schools with new and fewer facilities.
The recommendation was made part of the 10-year comprehensive educational facilities plan developed by McKinley and Associates, a Wheeling engineering firm; and approved by the board in 2010.
Rob Robinson, the school district's facilities supervisor, told the board core samples taken at the high school by PSI Engineering of Pittsburgh found no issues that would prevent the board from building a middle school west of the high school and a primary school east of it.
The area west is comprised of 6.28 acres in the grassy parking area currently used by students during the school day and by those attending the school's football games. Also comprised of 6.28 acres, the eastern site is the practice field used by the school's marching band and is adjacent to the staff parking lot.
Board President Jim Piccirillo acknowledged the proposal differs from that of building two primary schools, one for the northern half of the county and the other for the southern half.
But he said building at the high school would eliminate the need and cost for the board to purchase property elsewhere.
School board officials have said locating new middle or primary schools near the high school would make the existing school's facilities, such as the swimming pool, easily accessible to the younger grades.
Robinson noted utilities already are in place at the site and he has learned none of the property is in the 500-year floodplain, a concern that was voiced earlier.
He acknowledged new parking areas would have to be created.
Piccirillo stressed no definite plans have been made and the board would need to educate the public about the benefits of such a move. He acknowledged some won't want to lose schools in their communities.
The comprehensive plan proposed an estimated $84.9 million, needed for three new schools, be paid through a $42.4 million bond issue and $42.4 million in funds from the state School Building Authority and other sources.
School board officials have discussed placing the bond issue on ballots in 2014.
Piccirillo said he believes a selling point for the Hancock County bond issue for new schools supported by voters there was that it will raise funds also for the demolition of closed schools.
He said he believes residents will be concerned a school will remain vacant and deteriorate after it's closed.
Robinson said the school district was fortunate that Bethany and Edgewood primary schools were filled after they were closed several years ago. The Bethany school has been adopted by Bethany College for its education program, while Edgewood Primary School has been purchased and occupied by a church.
Dolly Kidd, a teacher who served on the CEFP committee, said in addition to changing the number of proposed primary schools from two to one, the community will be concerned about cuts in school staffing.
Piccirillo said he hopes staff can be cut through attrition, meaning staff wouldn't be replaced as they retired.
"We're not building this to reduce people," he said.
Declining enrollment and the rising cost to maintain school buildings have been cited as reasons to replace the older school buildings with new ones.
Enrollment for Brooke County schools as of Oct. 1 are as follows: Beech Bottom Primary, 119; Colliers Primary, 193; Franklin Primary, 196; Hooverson Heights Primary, 186; Jefferson Primary, 264; L.B. Millsop Primary, 87; Wellsburg Primary, 256; Follansbee Middle, 499; Wellsburg Middle, 457; and Brooke High School, 1,075.
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