Schools plan back to the drawing board

ARCHITECTS FOR NEW FACILITIES FACE TIGHT DEADLINES BEFORE SBA WINTER FUNDING CYCLE

By Pamela Pritt

REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER

CHARLESTON — Architects for a new facilities plan for Fayette County schools are headed back to the drawing board, with a tight deadline to ensure the plan is ready by the School Building Authority’s winter funding cycle.

David Sneed, the SBA’s executive director, said his board is “prepared to immediately begin to work with the state board and the county board to create a long range facilities plan.” Deadline for the plan is Oct. 1. The SBA distributes funds for large projects in December. Sneed spoke to the state Board of Education during its meeting Wednesday.

Fayette County schools have structural and infrastructural issues from failing roofs and condemned second floors to lack of heat and a coal-fired boiler system so old that cooks cover utensils and food too keep them free from coal dust.

Fayette County requested $39 million from the SBA in December 2015 for a $58 million consolidation project. That project was denied funding.

Sneed said he’ll begin forming the plan by hosting town hall meetings in Fayette County where residents will be invited to offer suggestions for the road ahead.

“It’s difficult for us to fund individual projects that aren’t supported by the board, aren’t supported by the community,” Sneed said. “We’d like to fund projects that are going to be around in 20 years.”

He said the SBA will do data collection, create a workable financing plan and then move on two tracks — short-term and long-term projects.

One short-term project is already on the front burner.

Sneed said Fayette Superintendent Terry George has submitted a project for an addition to Midland Trail High School to house classrooms for Ansted Middle School. George is also working on issues at Collins Middle School, Sneed said. Currently, Collins students are farmed out to three different schools — the remaining Collins structure and Oak Hill and Fayetteville high schools — after a major building on the Oak Hill campus was condemned in January 2015.

George said he’s filed a Major Improvement Plan (MIP) for $1 million for the Midland Trail addition, and Fayette County will have to “make a contribution,” perhaps for as much as $200,000. The superintendent said he expected the total cost would be $1.2 million for the six classrooms at the high school.

“We need to address that issue as quickly as possible,” George said. “(Ansted Middle School) is not sustainable.”

He said the school has temporary heaters in every classroom, temporary electrical service and water and mold issues.

At Collins Middle, George said he is exploring the feasibility of placing portable units in the Oak Hill area to relocate students there.

While Fayette County’s school building issues took up much conversation time, Sneed said no plan is currently in place for the facilities’ future.

“We’re really here to help create one,” he continued. “Fayette County needs help, the facilities need help; that takes time and a little bit of money. I’m confident we can bring it all together.”

State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano said the plan must come together quickly “We don’t have the luxury of two years,” he said. “The driver is the calendar. We’ve got an opportunity to get this right.”

— Email: ppritt@