Schools for the Deaf and Blind still searching for funding

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By Mackenzie Mays  
The Charleston Gazette  

The state's only school for deaf and blind students is still looking for a source of funding to make improvements to its outdated facilities.

The West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind's current facilities, which were built in 1938, do not meet federal and state standards and pose safety risks to students, but finding an entity to pay for a campus overhaul isn't easy, school superintendent Lynn Boyer said.

Boyer returned to the state School Building Authority Tuesday to again ask for funding — reducing her original $20 million project proposal to about $8 million.

"In the context of economic reality and certain events in past months, we are bringing a more modest proposal. It's a first step but not as great as we had hoped," Boyer said. "We have great needs."

The SBA just approved a 3 percent project for the school in December, giving more than $200,000 to replace HVAC units, roofing and other projects.

The majority of the funding for the comprehensive $7.8 million project would also have to come from the SBA, since the Legislature, in the midst of budget cuts, denied Boyer's request for more funding and instead asked the SBA to fund all needed improvements.

The House also recently passed a resolution asking the SBA to waive local matching requirements typically required of public school districts.

The school is run by the state, funded each year with state budget money and governed by the state Board of Education.

But the state school board does not have the authority to run a bond or levy on the school's behalf, and Hampshire County has "no interest," Boyer said Tuesday.

SBA Director Mark Manchin has said state officials directly tied to the school should be the ones responsible for funding the project.

On Tuesday, Manchin quelled concerns of some SBA board members that the SBA, too, is not legally allowed to provide funding for the school, since the SBA only supports public schools.

"There's nothing that would restrict us [from funding the project.] There's no permissive or restrictive language [in state code]," Manchin said.

The school serves about 145 students across the state — more than 80 of whom live on the campus 24-7.