SBA to help fund Edgewood Elementary - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

SBA to help fund Edgewood Elementary

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Although site preparation is 70 percent complete and nothing has been constructed, Edgewood Elementary School already is $2.8 million over budget.

Members of the School Building Authority voted Sept. 17 to provide the Kanawha County Board of Education with an additional $1 million in funding to make up part of that deficit. The Kanawha BOE will pay the remaining $1.8 million.

The new school, located in Charleston's West Side neighborhood, is billed a "school of the future." The Kanawha County Board of Education first designed a curriculum that focuses on STEM courses, then they designed the school around the needs of the curriculum. A high-tech school demands a high budget, and so far the School Building Authority has fronted $9.84 million while the Kanawha County Board of Education has put forward $11 million. But more money is still needed before contracts can be put out to bid.

"It's been a labor of love for us," Kanawha Superintendent Ron Duerring told the authority. "We've worked for more than two years and visited schools throughout the United States, we've read the research. What we think we're doing with this building is bringing the best that's out there into one building."

Tom Lange, a member of the SBA, raised some concerns with Duerring's proposal. He noted that in April, members of the Kanawha County Board of Education voted to set the excess levee rate and cap the amount of money it would put into the budget for next year. The board knew about the Edgewood project, he said, and asking the SBA for additional funds means that money can't be allocated to rural counties. Lange said his issue is with the board's actions, not Duerring.

"The more money the locals bring to the table, the more we can do," Lange said. "If they can bring $8 million or $9 million dollars to the table, that gives us an opportunity to do stuff in Ritchie County, to do stuff in Clay County, to do stuff in Gilmer County. We need a school in Gilmer County right now. We have a concern in McDowell County right now. They don't have the wherewithal … to do that."

Duerring said it would be up to board of education members if they wanted to revisit their actions from April.

Nicholas Preservati, a member of the SBA, said Kanawha County shouldn't be punished because it is bigger and more prosperous than other counties. The Kanawha County Board of Education is putting more than $11 million toward the Edgewood project and should be commended.

"If this was any other county, we'd be patting them on the back and say good for you guys for stepping up and putting forth $11 million with a $2.8 million deficit and you're putting up nearly $2 million of that," Preservati said. "I think Kanawha County should be commended."

Preservati said his primary concern related to the project is honoring the SBA's commitment to the children the school would serve. Voting in favor of the funding would send the right message, he said.

Without the additional money, Duerring said the project would have to be revisited. The school has already been downgraded to fit budget constraints.

"We went through the project with our architects and people with the School Building Authority and we cut a lot out of that project," he said. "We brought it down to a level we thought was reasonable and we can continue to maintain the philosophy we wanted in the school and get a great building."

The Edgewood school will be the second new school on the West Side, an area marked by high poverty and crime rates. The first school, the Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School, opened last year.

"I think what will happen for the West Side, it will be a great place for that community," Duerring said. "This is the second school for the West Side. We feel they're state-of-the-art schools and that's a plus for the community and a plus for those children."

Edgewood Elementary School is projected to cost about $21.6 million and open fall 2014.


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