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SBA to vote today on needs projects, including Fayette's

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SBA to vote today on needs projects, including Fayette's
By Alex Wiederspiel, WV MetroNews

The School Building Authority will vote Monday on whether or not to provide priority funding to Fayette County and adopt their school consolidation plan as laid out in the Fayette County Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP).

The plan calls for the SBA to provide 39 million dollars to Fayette County over a three-year period with Fayette County providing 17 million dollars in local matching funds.

“It’s nearly double what we’ve given any county at one time,” SBA Executive Director David Sneed told Hoppy Kercheval on “MetroNews Talkline” last week.

The CEFP consolidates Fayetteville High School, Oak Hill High School, Midland Trail, and Meadow Bridge High School into a single school in the Oak Hill area. Valley Fayette would remain open in the plan.

Collins Middle School students would move into Oak Hill High School. In total, three of the former high schools would transform into middle schools.

The plan also calls for building a new elementary school in the Mount Hope area.

The road to Monday’s vote has been, in many ways, a roller coaster ride. In June, voters rejected a school bond issue for the third time in fifteen years.

Weeks later, new superintendent Terry George unveiled the new CEFP to general support in most parts of the county–except for Meadow Bridge.

“[Our staff] is concerned that the plan was put together quickly–within a couple of weeks of [Superintendent] George’s arrival at the county,” Sneed said.

Meadow Bridge residents were particularly upset with the possibility that their students could ride 83 minutes each morning and afternoon on the bus to get to the new school.

“Our concerns that our Authority has voiced to us as a staff and asked us to follow up with information: is there broad-based support for this plan?” Sneed said. “We’ve received very mixed reaction to the plan.”

The State Board of Education, which currently is in take-over status in Fayette County, adopted George’s plan by a 6-3 vote in August.

The SBA, citing the example and precedent it could set if they adopted Fayette County’s plan despite a rejection of a bond issue, voted in September to reject the plan.

That drew the ire of State Board of Education President Mike Green–who sent a letter to Governor Tomblin with concerns that the SBA had acted as a “super board” and subverted the authority of the Board of Education.

Supporters in Fayette County felt the move wasn’t justified–since the CEFP was only a consent agenda item at that point. Voting yes would have been a green-light for Fayette County to proceed in their attempts to raise local matching funds and present their final plan to the SBA at a later date.

In October, Mountain State Justice filed a lawsuit against the SBA on behalf of Fayette County on the same day that gubernatorial candidate and State Senator Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 02) toured the schools of Fayette County with Superintendent Terry George, County Prosecutor Larry Harrah, teachers, parents, and several administrators.

On November 9, the SBA added the Fayette County CEFP back to their agenda–allowing George to make his case once again.

And last week, the State Board of Education adopted a resolution in conjunction with state code calling on the SBA to unanimously approve priority funding to Fayette County.

The SBA will vote Monday morning.

“We need to make sure this is the most thorough and efficient way to help Fayette County schools get back on their feet,” Sneed said.

According to Sneed, they have around 50 million dollars available for school projects with approximately 149 million dollars in requests from around the state.

“If we support projects that people in the counties do not support, the projects usually fail,” Sneed said. “Money usually comes back. There’s litigation. There’s all kind of issues that come up. And we can’t afford to tie up SBA monies in a project when other people can use that money and they’re ready to go.”