WINFIELD, W.Va. -- The Putnam County Board of Education voted to contract services with an architectural firm to explore the possibility of building a consolidated elementary school that "blurs the line" between Putnam and Mason counties.
Mark Manchin, executive director of the West Virginia School Building Authority, attended the Putnam County school board meeting Monday to discuss the idea of combining Buffalo Elementary School and Leon Elementary School in Mason County.
"The School Building Authority is continuing to encourage a number of ways of being efficient in our operation," he said. "Over the last few years we've been building green schools, sustainable schools, schools of the future, safer schools -- shatterproof glass and technology you couldn't have thought of 10 years ago to make our schools safer.
"We're doing a number of things to ensure efficient use of state tax dollars. One of the things we're trying to do, and that we're giving high priority to, are blurring county lines. No more are we going to say, 'Here's Mason County and here's Putnam County. We can only build in Mason County and we can only build in Putnam County.'"
One other project of this kind in the state is already underway. Leading Creek Elementary, a joint venture between Lewis and Gilmer counties, is currently being built on the county line.
According to Manchin, projects like Leading Creek and the proposed project for Mason and Putnam must be "feasible," but the School Building Authority tends to consider partnerships favorably when distributing funds. The SBA has funded 95 percent of the Leading Creek project.
Leon Elementary has roughly 150 students and is seven miles from the Putnam County line, and Buffalo Elementary has about 250 students and is three miles from Mason County. Manchin estimates the cost of building two new schools would be around $25 million.
The potential joint school would cost an estimated $13 million, which would likely also be cheaper than renovating both older schools.