Questions Raised and Questions Answered About School Facility Upgrades
At the Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting July 20, Marlinton Elementary School LSIC president JL Clifton expressed concerns with the board’s plan to use the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to install air conditioning in Green Bank Elementary-Middle School and in Marlinton Middle School but not Marlinton Elementary School, which also needs it.
“We’re frustrated, and this is mainly because we’re not slated for air conditioning at Marlinton Elementary School as we understand it,” he said. “We’d like to know that there’s a plan in place, something that we can track and follow and know that it’s not about air quality and it’s not about this or that.”
“We don’t want to cause a fuss and cause a school to not get something that you have planned to give them,” he continued. “We just want to be in line and make sure that there is a plan.”
The ARP funding is given with stipulations and Superintendent Terrence Beam explained that portions of the funding must go toward learning loss, after-school and summer school. The rest of the funding may be used to improve facilities with a focus on air quality since the ARP is a COVID-19 relief package.
Air quality tests were done at all five schools and the report stated that Green Bank Elementary-Middle School and Marlinton Middle School had the worst air quality of all five schools, placing them as top priorities to receive air conditioning. Board President Sue Hollandsworth said that the CDC has said that middle school aged kids are more susceptible to COVID than elementary school aged students.
Beam said that while the ARP funding will go toward air conditioning for Green Bank Elementary-Middle School and Marlinton Middle School, there is other funding that will be used for the other schools. He explained that he did an interview with both The Pocahontas Times and Allegheny Mountain Radio several weeks ago to lay out the plans for all five schools.
The board signed an agreement with Wendel Energy Systems to replace all school lighting with LED lights, which will bank savings for the board. But, instead of waiting several years for those energy savings to kick in to make repairs to the facilities, the board chose to take out a loan to replace the sprinkler system at Marlinton Elementary School this year. The energy savings from the LED lighting will be used to repay that loan.
Next, Beam said that he plans to work on a Major Improvement Project (MIP) grant application to the West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) for a new roof for Marlinton Elementary School, and Beam also plans to apply for a Needs Project through the SBA to air condition the remaining two schools – Marlinton Elementary School and PCHS.
“So, with the ARP money, the MIP, the Needs Project and the energy savings, we’ve got four different pots of money we’re trying to use to fix all five schools,” he said.
When the ARP plan was shared on the Board of Education’s website, it was open to public comment. Beam said it received 14 comments, 12 of which expressed concern as to why Marlinton Elementary School was not slated to get air conditioning. He said it bothered him a lot that people would think that Marlinton Elementary School had been forgotten about. While not getting the air conditioning, Marlinton Elementary is getting all of the same learning loss, after-school and summer school funding from ARC, as all the other schools, and, additionally, Marlinton Middle School is getting a new sprinkler system and may possibly get a new roof and air conditioning through SBA funding grant requests.
In the second part of this story, we will cover other topics discussed and acted on at this meeting. Allegheny Mountain Radio would like to thank Reporter Suzanne Stewart and the Pocahontas Times for the information in this story.