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School building requests come in near $160 million

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- School superintendents from 20 counties want about $159.5 million from the state School Building Authority to build new schools and repair others.

On Monday, superintendents from 11 counties asked the SBA to fund their projects, and on Tuesday, nine others will request a slice of about $42 million, which will be awarded at a meeting next month.

That amount includes $9 million Logan County gave back to the SBA on Monday.

Logan school officials were awarded the money last year to build a new elementary school. Logan Superintendent Wilma Zigmond asked SBA members for a reserve grant of up to $500,000 so the school board could continue with the planning and design process.

The Logan school board had found a new site for the school, which caused a planning delay of about nine months. However, board members wouldn't discuss the reserve grant and took back the $9 million.

"It breaks my heart to give back $9 million," Zigmond told SBA members. "I thought we had a site."

Also Monday, Blaine Hess, superintendent of Jackson County schools, asked the SBA for $15.6 million to build a new Ravenswood Middle School.

Hess said if the money were approved the county would allocate $750,000 for the project.

He asked the SBA for the money last year and had hoped to have more county funds to dedicate, but said the new Kenna Elementary ended up going over budget. That project, which the SBA helped to fund, dried up more local dollars.

Hess said Jackson school officials want to keep proposing the Ravenswood project to the SBA "whether we get it this year or next."

"It took us three or four times before we got Kenna," he said.

Building concerns at the existing Ravenswood Middle School are now tied mainly to a "temporary" wing built in the 1960s that's still in use, Hess said. Also, the two acres of land the school sits on is not big enough. Twelve to 15 acres is needed.

The SBA, which distributes state money for county school projects, sometimes makes the money contingent on a county passing a bond.

Mark Manchin, executive director of the SBA, said the board is inclined to choose projects that have some financial backing from a county because it makes the money go further.

"It's a tough decision we have to make," Manchin said. "Every county that asks for funding deserves it. It's not uncommon for us to ask [counties] to come back next time."

Gilmer County wants $11.1 million to build a new Gilmer County Elementary School, which would replace Glenville, Sandfork and Normantown elementary schools. County school officials would provide $900,000 if approved.

Kanawha County will ask for $1.9 million on Tuesday to add new classrooms and more at Andrews Heights Elementary School. Funding for the project was turned down last year. Kanawha school officials plan to chip in a little more than $650,000 for the upgrade.

Also at the meeting, Manchin told board members that changes are in the works to provide for new school safety elements, like shatterproof film on entryway windows and doors, among other things.

"We're going to make funds available for safety," Manchin said, adding that the film would cost $10 to $15 per square foot.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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