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W.Va. school supers seek $170 million for building projects

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- School superintendents throughout West Virginia asked the state School Building Authority for more than $170 million on Monday to build new classrooms and renovate crumbling public schools.

The SBA considered building proposals from 23 counties jockeying for a portion of the $40 million the SBA will award in a meeting next month.

Frank Blackwell, superintendent of Wyoming County schools, was among the dozens of superintendents who approached the SBA on Monday.

He asked for about $7.6 million in state funds to build a new school to replace flood-prone Huff Consolidated Elementary School in the state's southern coalfields.

Blackwell said Huff Elementary, squarely in Wyoming County's flood plain, has been flooded twice in the last three years.

"The question is not if the school will be flooded again, but when," said Blackwell.

He said the elementary school was stripped and remodeled after being flooded in 2009 and 2010, but the water seriously damaged the foundation on the southwest side of the school and has deteriorated the masonry walls.

Authority President Mark Manchin said deciding which schools to fund is always an issue, particularly during this and next year's funding cycle, which he called "extremely lean."

"There's nearly $2 billion worth of needs in West Virginia schools' 10-year plans for facilities alone," said Manchin. "The SBA can only identify about $800 million of that. Needless to say, there are certainly not enough funds to address all the needs out there. But we'll do our best to give money to the schools that need it and look at alternative funding plans."

Kanawha County school officials will present their request on Tuesday for more than $2 million in state funds to add six classrooms and renovate the food service area at Andrews Heights Elementary School. The SBA denied Kanawha County's request for $1 million in December to build four classrooms at John Adams Middle School.

Putnam County did not ask for any money for grants during this funding cycle after being awarded $1 million in funds and receiving a $1.5 million bond in December to build seven new classrooms, restrooms and a sprinkler system at Conner Street Elementary School.

On Monday, the SBA approved a bond sale of $57 million over the next two years to help finance school construction projects. The SBA will award about $40 million at their April 23 meeting and $40 million in 2013.

Reach Amy Julia Harris at amy.harris@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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