Williamstown administrators drumming up support for new school

Williamstown Elementary to host Wood BOE meeting

WILLIAMSTOWN — Williamstown High School Principal Pat Peters is encouraging residents to let the Wood County Board of Education know Williamstown needs a new elementary school.

Peters proclaimed the board’s Feb. 28 meeting “Hold Their Feet to the Fire Day” and encouraged Williamstown residents to attend en mass after three of the district’s five board members this week voted to not purchase a site for a new Williamstown-area elementary school, throwing the project’s future into doubt.

“A lot of people think this is just about the elementary school, but the high school has horses tied to this wagon as well,” Peters said Thursday. “This isn’t just about an elementary school. This is about construction of a new elementary, expansion of the high school and roofs at buildings throughout the district.”

The board Tuesday voted 2-3 to purchase the Fenton Art Glass factory property in Williamstown.

The site had been recommended by a committee as the place to build a new Williamstown-area elementary, which is part of a $41 million facilities bond approved by voters in November.

“Everyone was shocked when they voted not to use this site,” said Peters, who was part of the committee which spent more than three years researching sites before recommending Fenton. “It’s not an overnight process where you can wave a wand and say ‘this is the best site.’ We went through a tremendous amount of work to get this recommendation. I felt this was the best location. The team felt this was the best location.”

Peters said there is no backup site for construction. Most of the sites reviewed, he said, either weren’t sufficient for a new school or were too expensive to develop, and many of the properties considered when the process began almost four years ago are no longer even available.

Williamstown parent Melissa Weppler, who led the community committee which promoted the $41 million bond call and the push for a new elementary school, said Tuesday’s vote was short-sighted and ill-informed.

“I think a lot of them voted purely from an emotional standpoint. They went into that meeting with their minds made up,” Weppler said. “I don’t think they are working in the best interest of the county as a whole, because you can’t vote on something and have not educated yourself on the facts.”

Legal counsel for the school board warned Tuesday the lack of a site for a new elementary school could significantly delay the project, could cause problems for the bond sale which is supposed to occur in March. If a sufficient site cannot be found in six months, the bonds might not be sold.

“They do put the entire bond in jeopardy,” said Weppler. “It’s not just a Williamstown-Waverly issue. It affects every single school in Wood County and all of ours kids.”

Superintendent John Flint said the board will hold a meeting in Williamstown, though an agenda has not yet been set.

“The next officials meeting will be Feb. 28 at Williamstown Elementary School,” Flint said Thursday. “I spoke to (board President Lawrence) Hasbargen and we decided because of the logistics of the board office, (WES) would be the best place to hold this next meeting.”

Flint said while no topics have been set for the Feb. 28 meeting, officials anticipate a larger turnout from Williamstown residents.

“I think we have to be ready for that,” Flint said.

Williamstown Elementary Principal Heather Bretthauer said Thursday she hopes the board will use this opportunity to revisit the topic.

“I’m hopeful the board of education will reconsider the decision on the Fenton property after getting more information and doing their due diligence,” she said.