WELLSBURG - The Brooke County Board of Education is stepping up plans calling for the replacement of the county's two middle schools with one new building and its seven primary schools with two new ones.
At a special work meeting Wednesday the board asked architects with McKinley and Associates of Wheeling to seek bids for a company to take samples of land near Brooke High School to determine if it would be suitable for the construction of a proposed new middle school.
It also made plans to form a committee to identify potential sites for two new primary schools, one in the northern half of the county and the other in the southern half.
The consolidations are part of a 10-year comprehensive educational facilities plan approved by the board in 2010 and developed by McKinley and Associates and Planning Advocates of Delaware, Ohio with input from a committee of 43 school staff members and citizens formed by the board.
The plan suggested the $84.9 million cost for the new schools and improvements to the high school be sought through a $42.4 million bond issue and $42.4 million in funds from the state School Building Authority and other sources.
Superintendent Kathy Kidder noted public hearings also must be held before any school may be closed.
Kidder said the local bond issue for the new schools should be introduced following passage of the school district's five-year operating levy, which is up for renewal next year; and after its current 15-year bond issue has been repaid.
Approved by voters in 2000, the bond issue supported construction of the Brooke High School Wellness Center and improvements to all Brooke County schools.
Kidder said it may be possible to pay it off early, which would allow the new bond issue to go on ballots in 2014.
Board President James Piccirillo said many assume the new primary schools will be built in Follansbee and Wellsburg, but there may not be land available there.
Board member Brian Ferguson said there had been talk of demolishing Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools and building the new primary schools there, but there are concerns about whether Wellsburg Middle School is in the 100-year floodplain.
Regulations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency could prevent the board from building there.
Ernie Delatore of McKinley and Associates said at least part of Wellsburg Middle School is in the floodplain. He said Brooke High School is in the 500-year floodplain, and the opinion of the state School Building Authority is being sought.
Delatore said available land, the location of the student population and travel time for students riding to and from school all must be considered.
Ferguson asked about the future of any closed schools, noting the former Riverview and Windsor Heights schools have sat vacant years after they were closed.
Piccirillo said the Hancock County levy supporting the construction of a new consolidated primary school and other improvements included funds for the demolition of the existing ones.
A few board members suggested Franklin Primary School might be considered as the site for a new school. Assistant Superintendent Marty Bartz said a wastewater treatment system serving the school would have to be upgraded.
Piccirillo said one new primary school also could be built near Brooke High School, depending on the number of pupils it would need to serve.
But he acknowledged parents of kindergarteners and pre-schoolers, who are being phased into school districts throughout the state, may not want their children to attend schools away from their neighborhoods.
Opponents attending a public hearing on the plan in 2003 said children benefit from smaller schools, where they receive more individual attention, and their families appreciate having easy access to schools near their homes, particularly in the event of an emergency.
Supporters said the school district's declining enrollment and revenue makes it necessary to consolidate, and the new buildings would be better suited for Internet access and other new technology.
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