Local schools to request state building funds

CHARLESTON – Representatives of five area school systems will go before the state School Building Authority next week to ask for financial aid for construction and improvement projects.

The SBA will hold 10-minute interviews with school system officials throughout the day Monday and Tuesday, with each group having the chance to ask for funding and describe their projects. Nineteen county school systems and the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind will make presentations.

Locally, the SBA will hear presentations from Ritchie, Doddridge, Gilmer and Jackson counties Monday and Wirt County Tuesday. Each school system will be represented by its superintendent and a school board member.

“You get 10 minutes to present your case,” said Ed Toman, superintendent of Ritchie County Schools. “I’m pretty excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Toman said Ritchie County is seeking $6,391,016 for renovations at Creed Collins Elementary School. Those renovations would include buildings new classrooms, improvements to the school’s kitchen and dining area, better handicapped accessibility and a new entrance.

Toman said the school system would provide $250,000 in matching funds for the project.

Rick Coffman, superintendent of Doddridge County Schools, said officials Monday will request funding for construction at Doddridge County Elementary School.

“We are going to ask the SBA for $398,000. We are going to put it with our match, which would be $500,000, which would put the project close to $900,000,” he said. The money would be used “to add much needed classrooms at our elementary school. We have a large student population and not enough space.”

Coffman said he and other Wirt officials hope the small asking amount coupled with the larger matching portion will increase the district’s chances of having the project funding approved.

“Since our amount is lower, we’re hoping it might enhance our chances,” he said. “I think it also helps if you are able to squeeze out a bit larger match.”

Wirt County Schools Superintendent Maryjane Albin said officials will request funds for work on Wirt County High School, including some weatherproofing and replacing the school’s roof, HVAC system and fire alarm system. Albin said current systems at the school are about 20-25 years old.

“We are very fortunate to have had good maintenance and have been able to keep things working well, but we’re at that point where we need help,” she said.

Albin said officials will request the SBA put $1,814,422 toward the nearly $2 million project, with the school system paying for the rest.

“We don’t ask for money often and we see that as an advantage for us,” she said. “When we do ask, we are at a point where we really do need the support.”

Albin said this will be her first time going before the SBA, but not her first time working on an SBA funding request.

“I’m comfortable with the process,” she said. “I’ve been part of preparing a request, but I haven’t been the superintendent presenting it before.”

Officials with Gilmer and Jackson county schools could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The SBA will announce in April which grants have been awarded to school systems. The SBA meets on a quarterly basis.