Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus speaks to those gathered at the Upshur County Board of Education meeting Tuesday to explain the vision for a new middle school. BOE members voted unanimously to move a new middle school to the top priority in their 10-year Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

Upshur Schools submits amended facilities plan that prioritizes construction of new middle school

TENNERTON – Upshur County Schools has submitted a revised Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan to the state Department of Education, changing its number one priority from constructing a new high school to building a new middle school.

During Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting, Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus shared the updated version of the CEFP, or Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan, which she said had been sent to the West Virginia Department of Education. (The amended 2020-2030 CEFP may be viewed in its entirety here.)

During the last Upshur County BOE meeting, members voted to allow the document to be updated to move the number one priority to be constructing a new Upshur County middle school.

“As we discussed at the last board meeting, before we can bring any application to the (West Virginia) School Building Authority, we have to make amendments to the CEFP to reflect our priorities,” Stankus said. “It was submitted today with the updates.”

Stankus said a new middle school for Upshur County was the number one priority.

“Prior to this, our number one priority was a new high school and the high school [was going to become] the middle school, but because we can build a new middle school for a lot less than we can build a high school, we have decided to make this our new priority,” Stankus said. “We heard throughout our discussions that a new middle school is what people think we need.”

Stankus reminded the BOE members that currently, the Upshur County School system is spending approximately $800,000 every year just to make needed repairs and upgrades just to stay in the B-UMS building.

“That amount is going to rise because the cost of everything is going up,” Stankus said. “Prices have doubled and tripled and right now, we do not get the parts in a timely fashion. It is becoming more and more difficult for us to maintain this very old building (the current middle school). Bear in mind that [figure] is not making any improvements – that is just the cost to keep the building open and up to code.”

Upshur County Schools Financial Director Jeffrey Perkins said it will cost approximately $9 million to bring Buckhannon-Upshur High School up to the most current standards, which is the second aspect of the revised plan. Perkins noted that when Upshur County Schools changed priorities from building a new high school to building a new middle school, there was a significant reduction in the ‘ask’ for projects in Upshur County Schools by $31 million.

“So, according to the CEFP that is a reduction of $31 million from the projected $99 million,” Perkins explained about the 10-year document. “Along with that, we have no bond money to support that, so that comes out of the mix. The SBA grant is reduced, and we are looking at a total amount of projects for the 10 years of the CEFP to be just over $68 million.”

The CEFP calculates the exact total to be 68,053,366.01.

Perkins said when they look at the plan prioritizing the middle school, the cost would be $9 million for the high school upgrades, $30 million for a new middle school and the rest of the $68 million would be upgrades to the elementary schools in the county.

“That does not mean any of these projects are imminent, but this is our plan,” Perkins shared, adding that the CEFP is a 10-year plan. “This plan was reviewed by the West Virginia Department of Education, and they will forward it to the West Virginia School Building Authority,” Perkins said.

Stankus said approval of the CEFP will be on the West Virginia State Board of Education’s agenda for approval in June 2022.

“From there, it will be sent to the SBA,” Perkins explained. “Any project we ask for funding for will be compared to our CEFP and that becomes our plan.”

BOE member Dr. Greenbrier Almond asked what classes would be included in any potential new middle school and requested that fifth-grade students not be in the new building.

Stankus said in the new plan the middle school would have grades 6 through 8, which was what the BOE asked during the last meeting.

“We are still moving forward with our project-based learning curriculum,” Stankus said. “We are an empowerment district, and we are moving forward with that curriculum in our elementary schools and middle school and high school.”

Stankus said in this updated plan, the Upshur County BOE would not be asking the public to support a bond.

Also, during the meeting, BOE members voted to:

  • Sell the Sand Run Community Building to Trustees of the Sand Run Baptist Church.
  • Ask the City of Buckhannon to provide in-kind help in the demolition of the property located at 9 East Victoria St. in Buckhannon.

The next regular meeting of the Upshur County BOE is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 13 at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

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