BOE approves grant submission for new middle school

TENNERTON — The Upshur County Board of Education met at the Buckhannon-Upshur High School on Tuesday, June 14 at 7 p.m. Among a full agenda, the board members voted and approved a grant submission to the School Building Authority (SBA) of W.Va. The grant will be submitted as a Needs Grant Submission for a new middle school for Upshur County.

The SBA reveals “Needs projects are the major capital improvement projects funded through the SBA’s General Construction Fund. County Boards of Education submit capital improvement projects to the SBA for funding consideration. Projects are submitted and evaluated pursuant to the SBA’s Policy and Procedures Handbook - Section 200 and Section 201. The process involves: Grant Application, SBA and WVBE approval of county CEFP (if necessary), SBA staff review including site visits, interviews by the Authority with County Superintendents and Board Presidents, and review and rating by the Architectural Services Staff. The Authority then completes the process with their deliberation and selection of the projects.”

Documentation provided by the Upshur County Board of Education shows that the funds requested totals $21,000,000. It also says that local funds commitment totals $10,377,949. This brings the total cost of the project to $31,377,949. Within the documentation it is stated, “The Upshur County 2020-2030 Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP) Committee concurred with the previous CEFP that a new middle school was needed. Our current middle school has served the previous high school students and current middle school students since 1925. As the county looks toward building a new middle school, the Board is working with the community to repurpose the facility. The community has presented preliminary proposals for future use including a senior living facility and a recreational center/complex.”

“The taxpayers purchased the 114 acre “Hockenberry Farm,” connected to our current High School in 2010, however, when our voters did not pass the bond election for a new middle school, this property remained dormant and available. We own this property free and clear. If approved, this property will serve as the location for our new Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School (B-UMS),” as further stated on this same documentation.

County finance information is also included in the executive summary of the grant application. It reveals that the bonding capacity is $58,409,098 with the same amount noted in the available bonding capacity. The excess levy capacity is noted to be $8,427,377 with remaining levy capacity noted at $4,817,742. The financial information also reveals that Upshur County is not considered a financially distressed county by the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and that the percentage of levy collected is at 57.17%. It also determined that $1,000,000 of the excess levy is dedicated to capital improvements annually. The expiration date of the current levy is on Sunday,, June 30, 2024.

The project status portion reveals that the site is selected (Hockenberry Farm) and that a Planning Flood Elevation Certificate is received. The geotechnical aspects are awaiting report and that a survey has been performed. It states, “A stream determination has been conducted and submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We have also performed core drilling at the site and are awaiting the results of the geotechnical report in the summer of 2022.”

The operational and financial impacts of the proposed project report that with a “reduction of annual emergency maintenance on antiquated facilities and equipment required to maintain minimum occupancy standards” that anticipated annual savings with be reflected in the amount of $150,000. A projected cost avoidance “(net backlog amount of work at the Middle School) is in the amount of $17,603,057. This implies that the cost to update the current B-UMS would be in the amount of $17,603,057.

Other items discussed in the grant include that “it will be designed and constructed to meet all the regulatory requirements of the SBA of W.Va. which references the WVDE Policy 6200 and the State Building and the State Fire Codes. It also states, “The creation of a campus for middle and high school students increases our ability to provide safety and security for the staff/faculty and students. Adjacent to the campus is the Buckhannon Detachment of the W.Va. State Police Barracks. Additionally, the Prevention Resource Officers (PRO) from the Middle and High School will work collaboratively. The school facilities are located well beyond the main highway and provide a safe distance from all traffic hazards.”

The documentation also reports that the new facility would house 900 students while 375 are required to meet Economies of Scale Guidelines if grade configuration. The travel time would also not be affects as the new location would be two miles or a five-minute drive from the current middle school.

Furthermore, the grant submission states that it would allow curriculum improvement and diversification. “Upshur County continues to be innovative in the areas of Curriculum and Instruction, focusing on reading and math, essential knowledge of the Arts, Social Studies, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math (STEAM), and Word Languages. They want students to continue building the skills that include life characteristics such as being ready to learn, fail, and improve. Flexibility, adaptability, self-awareness and confidence are also desirable characteristics for our students,” as noted verbatim within the grant submission.

The very in-depth submission reveals much more including comment that states, “With that in mind, Upshur County School District has begun to implement innovation throughout all grade levels of its schools, starting with a new approach to learning. Schools across the county are focusing on enhanced career-based programs for students to imagine, dream, and achieve pathways of learning in preparation for college and career, to achieve this feat, the district partnered with the WVDE and local business and industry to become and “Empowerment District.” This program is utilized at the high school but starts at the middle school by setting the students on the right track to be ready for the next level. Additionally, we will provide flex spaces which are dispersed through the facility to promote strategic interaction and encourage collaboration.”

The submission also reveals that Upshur County “is in the early planning process of the building planning phase to make sure the programs identified in the CEFP are provided and such programs have spaces as identified in Policy 6200 but also recognizing the SBA Policy states that every space is referred to be utilized 85% of each school day. “

Local bond history efforts are also listed within the submission. It revealed that on Thursday, November 1, 1956, a bond passed in the amount of $766,000 and that on Friday, March 1, 1974, a bond passed in the amount of $3,552,000. Other bonds listed that did not pass included a bond on Saturday, May 15, 2011, and most recently a failed bond on Saturday, January 15,2022.

It is further noted that the current B-UMS has received six major additions since it was originally constructed on a 16.98-acre site in 1925. Those additions were performed in 1952,1958, 1968, 1977,1983 and 2001. The existing three-story facility contains 108,328 square footage and building utilization is 71%. It further states that the facility’s energy usage index of EUI is 66.40 and that there are no known major structural issues. However, it does go on to state, “This has numerous issues identified I the 2010 and 2020 CEFP that limit the accessibility for staff, students, and community. Any health concerns are addressed as they occur, but the HVAC and roofing conditions make it difficult.”

Other documentation that is presented with the grant includes a Phase Cost Estimate that illustrates the cost of each construction aspect including site development, general trades, plumbing, HVAC, electrical, fire protection, food service equipment, furnishings, etc. A flood map also accompanies the grant submission and reveals that the location is not within any identified flood hazard area.

The SBA began in 1989 and has since provided provide over $3,200,000,000 (billion) in funding for construction projects across all 55 counties in West Virginia according to their website. The SBA website revealed that the following counties benefitted from the Needs Grant in the year 2022 having received applications by the deadline in 2021, Cabell, Hampshire, Kanawha, Lincoln, McDowell, Mineral and Taylor.


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