PRINCETON, WV, MARCH 15, 2011:   Superintendent Deborah Akers and Mercer County Board of Education President Greg Prudich met with the West Virginia School Building Authority in Charleston last week to convince SBA members that Oakvale needs a new elementary school. 

For the third year, Mercer County submitted a formal proposal for new construction for the students of Oakvale.  The plan calls for the gymnasium (built in 1960) and upstairs classrooms behind the gym (built in 1981) to remain but for the older structure containing offices, classrooms, and cafeteria to be replaced with a new, energy-efficient building.  

The School Building Authority, headed by Executive Director Mark Manchin, listened attentively as Akers and Prudich explained the dilemma county administrators find themselves in.

“The building is very old.  Portions date to 1921 and 1930.  With later add-ons, the school is a tangle of turns, levels, stairs, and turrets,” she said.  “It is not ADA compliant, and making it so would be cost prohibitive for such an old facility.”

If students had to be bused to Princeton, the county would find itself in violation of transportation rules, Akers explained.   By law, elementary students may not exceed 30 minutes of travel time to or from school. 

Authority members asked questions about the county’s likelihood of passing a bond issue to fund new construction, and indicated an awareness of the financial plight of the southern counties.   

This year, the WV School Building Authority received Needs Project proposals from 28 districts.  The Authority reviews each proposal, sends staff for site visits, and interviews the superintendents. 

Awards are made on the basis of seven criteria:  health and safety, economies of scale, travel time / demographics, multi-county scope, curriculum improvement, educational innovation, adequacy of space, and local investment in the project.

“In the past 20 years, the SBA has funded four major projects in Mercer County,” Akers said, “PikeView High in 1994, Bluefield Intermediate and Princeton Primary in 2000 and, currently, PikeView Middle which will open in August.  In each case, the county contributed a portion of the total cost.

The West Virginia School Building Authority also awards competitive grants for Major Improvement Projects (up to $1,000,000), School Access Safety upgrades, and emergency funding.

The SBA will meet April 11th to decide which projects will receive awards during this round of funding.