BOE calls special meeting to discuss school closures
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - The Mineral County Board of Education will hold a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the county office to discuss the proposed closure of three schools in the Frankfort District.
As written in the Comprehensive Educational Facility Plan approved by the board last year, the closures are proposed in order to consolidate the students into a new Frankfort Primary School.
In the plan, it was noted that each of the schools - Frankfort Intermediate, Fort Ashby Primary and Wiley Ford Primary - had aging facilities with need for costly improvements in order to bring them back up to code.
Frankfort Intermediate, for example, is in need of exterior renovations including the replacement of window and door frames and the roof, as well as some masonry repairs. Inside, the pre-k through 4 school is in need of a new boiler system, including pumping, pipes, coils, wiring and more. According to the CEFP, “replacement parts have to come from Korea and are very hard to acquire.”
Safe school entry updates are needed, as well as connectors to the exterior buildings.
Estimated cost if the building were to be repaired and updated is $5.6 million.
At Fort Ashby Primary, a pre-k through 2 school, outside needs included an improved bus loading/unloading area, walkways, windows, roofing and drains. Interior renovations include replacing the boiler, pumps, control valves and controls, wiring and switchboard. The restrooms are in need of renovation as well.
Estimated cost if those repairs were to be made is $2.8 million.
At Wiley Ford, a pre-k through 4 school, the windows and roof need replaced, along with the correction of drainage issues. Inside, the boilers, piping and coils need replaced, along with new switchboard and panelboards. The multi-purpose room and kitchen both would need to be enlarged, and additional space is needed for storage for both instructional materials and mechanics.
Estimated cost at that school, should it be renovated and repaired, is $5.7 million.
Preliminary estimate for the new Frankfort Primary School, which would bring those three aging schools together in a new construction, is $21 million.
The new school would be built on the same campus that now houses Frankfort High and Frankfort Middle schools.
Superintendent of schools Troy Ravenscroft has already presented a request to the West Virginia School Building Authority for $19 million, with $2 million to be provided in local funding.
Closing existing schools and building a new one is a long process, however, and Thursday’s meeting is the first step toward that goal.
According to the call for the special meeting, which was issued by board president Lara Courrier, there will be no action to approve or disapprove the proposed closures at that time.
What the board may do, however, is:
1. Receive and approve written reasons for the proposals from the superintendent;
2. Designate information concerning the proposals to be made available to the public for inspection and comment;
3. Schedule the publication of legal notices advertising the required public hearings; and
4. Take any other actions that may be required by state law or West Virginia Board of Education policy.
If the SBA would approve Mineral County’s request for funding in April, Ravenscroft has said the new school could be open as early as 2023.
The last school built in Mineral County was Keyser Primary in 2014.
Anyone wishing to sit in on Thursday’s special meeting virtually can find instructions under the “Board” tab on the board’s website at boe.mine.k12.wv.us.