Former Pocahontas Resident Presents Design Plans For One Room University
Marlinton, WV – The One Room University project, the brainchild of Pocahontas County Coordinator Jay Miller, has cleared another hurdle on its way to becoming a reality.
Architectual drawings created by former PCHS graduate Johnathan Smith have been approved by New River Community and Technical College and by City National Bank in Marlinton, who will house the ORU. Once the project is up and running students, using Interactive Video Networking or IVN, will be able to take college level classes without leaving Pocahontas County.
The ORU will be housed on the second floor of the bank. Before they would agree to a lease, they wanted to see how the space would be used. Smith, the winning bidder on creating the architectural plans for the project, presented those plans at the Pocahontas County Commission meeting Tuesday.
Initially he envisions seven study carrels, constructed out of inexpensive but sturdy materials. Each carrel will have a desktop computer and the IVN equipment. New River CTC will supply the computer software for the classes. Smith says there is one area in which he’s reluctant to compromise.
“We’re trying in every way we can to keep costs down, but I think it’s very important in terms of selling it, that we really invest in matching chairs, matching tables, these things, so that it really feels real, like a real campus” he says. “Because that is part of the experience and that’s the majority of the design is these furniture pieces; we want it to be legit.”
Miller estimates the seven carrels will serve 20 to 25 students. Smith’s design carries the project through 4 phases expanding from the current space to the unfinished space on the bank’s second floor. Miller says with approval of the design, many other things will get started.
“There’s been a bottleneck until we had these drawings and until we had true agreement by all the major players” he says. “Now [that] it’s come together conceptually, we’ve got a half a dozen different mini projects that need to go on between now and August because our time frame is still – we want to be able to start offering IVN classes here with the August semester [of New River].”
He says they’re working with Frontier Communications and New River to set up a test of the system for later this spring. Roger Griffith, Dean of New River’s Greenbrier campus, has offered the use of his campus carpentry shop to help construct the carrels. Miller says that Workforce West Virginia may also be interested in using the IVN technology for vocational classes.
In other business, Pocahontas County Teen Court Coordinator Thomas Peterson spoke to the Commissioners about a couple of grants in the works to fund the teen court program. The two grants together total $25,000.00 and require a certain percentage of matching cash funds. The Commissioners agreed to act as sponsors for the grants with two caveats – that the Commission is not solely obligated to meet the cash match, and that Peterson will actively pursue other sources to cover that cost.
The Commission took no action on a request from CASA for a $7000.00 contribution. CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocates represent children who are caught up in the circuit court system due to neglect or abuse. While he doesn’t question the need for the contribution, Commission President David Fleming is concerned about the timing.
“This seems to me that this request for funding before we get into our budget for the next fiscal year is a little bit of the cart before the horse” says Fleming. “What I would like for us to do is make note of this request and as we go into the budget process over the next couple of months, try to make room for this. But I’m hesitant at this point to say yes; it’s sort of like writing a check without knowing what the checkbook balance is.”
Commission administrative assistant Sue Helton says the Commission’s discretionary budget to cover such requests is down to $12,000.00, with five months left in this fiscal year.
The Commissioners also heard an update on the activities of the county’s senior citizens from Executive Director John Simmons. He says the Marlinton site has sucessfully relocated from the town to Rt 219 north of Marlinton in the Edray area. He says the move was necessary because of the high cost of flood insurance at the former location. They are also working on improving the Hillsboro senior site, currently located near Hillsboro Elementary School. Simmons estimates that about a third of the county population now qualifies as senior citizens.
The next regular meeting of the Pocahontas County Commission will be Tuesday, February 15th.