Series of forums planned to provide info, answer questions about proposed new high school

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Board of Education is sponsoring a spate of public meetings to share their ‘Vision of the Future’ for the proposed construction of a new Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

The meetings are open, and members of the public are encouraged to attend to learn more and ask questions.

Public meetings will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Oct. 26, 2021 — Washington District Elementary School
  • Nov. 16, 2021 — Buckhannon-Upshur High School
  • Nov. 30, 2021 — Buckhannon Academy Elementary School
  • Dec. 14, 2021 — Union Elementary School
  • During a recent Upshur County Board of Education meeting, Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan committee chair Vanessa Perkins expressed enthusiasm about Upshur County Schools’ plan to construct a new high school in Tennerton near the current one and then renovate the existing high school into a new Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.

    “Our children’s future is paved with bright and solid opportunities,” Perkins shared during that meeting, adding that for the last two years, the BOE has been working on a vision for the county and has enlisted help from staff, families, businesses, residents and local stakeholders through public input sessions.

    “We have taken your vision and have heard you loud and clear and we are ready to move forward with your request for a new school, which is more conducive to the CTE (career and technical education) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) learning environment,” Perkins said.

    Perkins said the goal is to build a new high school and renovate the current high school to become the much-needed new middle school. The Upshur BOE, Upshur County Schools and CEPF committee are all asking citizens to rally around the vision.

    “Our community support is the last step needed to make this vision possible,” Perkins said.

    To help the plan come to fruition, Upshur County voters are encouraged to learn about the bond levy election, slated for Jan. 15, 2022. If passed, the bond issue would produce $49 million over a 15-year period, costing the average county taxpayer approximately $70 a year or $6 a month. What’s more, is if approved locally — i.e. if the bond levy passes — the School Building Authority of West Virginia is expected to provide about 30 percent of the funding, or $21 million.

    So, how will this vision be realized?

    During a recent BOE meeting, Ted Shriver, with the Charleston-based firm, Williamson Shriver Architects, said the process would entail the promotion of a bond through a series of public meetings.

    An initial application for the $21 million in SBA funding was submitted Sept. 10 for a proposed reserve grant that would be subject to the passage of the bond call. He said the adoption of a bond call would happen on or about Nov. 15, 2021, and a bond election is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 15, 2022. If the bond call passes, architects can progress to the next phase, which is to finalize the design and ultimately, bid out the high school construction and middle school renovation project.

    Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said that after meeting with stakeholders, including business and industry leaders, a list of priorities was developed for Upshur County Schools. Stankus said constituents identified top priorities to be building a new Comprehensive Career and Technical High School, which would enhance, not compete, with programs offered through the Fred W. Eberle Technical Center.

    That plan would include the renovation of the current high school to become the new location of Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.

    The Upshur County Leadership Team will meet with the School Building Authority on Sept. 27 to share the proposal and on Nov. 1 or 2, the team will meet with the School Building Authority to participate in interviews where they will share the Upshur County project proposal and request a reserve grant of up to $500,000 to be used by Upshur County Schools to design a new Upshur County high school, Stankus told My Buckhannon.

    Grant recipients will be announced on Dec. 13, 2021, but SBA funding is contingent upon the passage of the school bond issue.

    “Our community has demonstrated their commitment to our children and has been involved in all areas of planning,” Stankus said. “All Upshur County students will benefit from these new schools.”

    During the bond election, Upshur County will vote to provide support of approximately $49 million over 15 years. In a series of upcoming public meetings, residents can learn more about the plans for the new Buckhannon-Upshur High School and the renovation of the current Buckhannon-Upshur High School to become the new middle school. They may also any questions they have about the schools, the bond, SBA funding or any other issue related to the CEFP.

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