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McDowell's Anawalt students to use portable classrooms until new elementary erected

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- McDowell County got approval Thursday to move forward with a $2.2 million portable-classroom project.

The temporary facility, approved during the second round of the West Virginia Board of Education meeting, will be for the 100 students who attend Anawalt Elementary School.

The state Fire Marshal decided that students could not occupy the Anawalt building during the 2012-13 school year because of safety concerns, and the West Virginia School Building Authority put Anawalt on its list of the top 15 schools "in critical need," according to a January report.

The nearly 12,000 square feet of enclosed modular units at Anawalt are expected to be in place three to four years, said Mike Pickens, the state Department of Education's director of facilities.

The cost of the project includes the portable units, demolition of Anawalt Elementary School, water and sewer to the temporary facility, and some roadwork near the school, said Liza Cordeiro, executive director of communications for the department of education.

McDowell County is requesting $1 million from the SBA and would contribute the rest of the costs for the project, Pickens said.

Mark Manchin, the SBA's executive director and a former superintendent of McDowell County schools, said the request hasn't been approved and will be presented to the SBA at its June 25 meeting. He said the authority still has to review the project, including demolition of any buildings, site preparations and utilities, before making a decision.

During Thursday's meeting, Board of Education members raised concerns about spending the money on a temporary facility while the county is looking to launch a new building project.

McDowell County also requested $12.875 million to build an elementary school that would consolidate Welch, Fall River and Anawalt elementary schools, according to a January report by the SBA. The county proposed that the SBA cover 90 percent of the cost and the county contribute 10 percent, or $1.5 million, according to the report.

In April, the SBA didn't approve the request because of other more pertinent projects, Manchin said. He also said the discussion among authority members was that they'd like to see local companies contribute more to the county building project.

Jorea Marple, state superintendent of schools, reiterated this idea during the Board of Education meeting Thursday. She said the SBA looks for a local contribution for building projects, so she was hesitant to see McDowell County put a chunk of money toward the temporary school, instead of saving it for the permanent building.

"It's not financially smart," Marple said.

Board members asked if other options had been considered. Nelson Spencer, the county's newly named superintendent, said he'd looked into sending the students to other elementary schools, but determined it isn't feasible because of the distance and the road conditions.

Cordeiro said paying for a temporary facility ultimately is the best solution.

"Anytime you have an emergency situation like we are having with Anawalt," she said, "you have to buckle down, reassess and move forward."

Although board members expressed wariness, the motion passed unanimously, and several members voiced the opinion that "there is no other choice."

During the meeting, board members also:

| Discussed the need to prepare West Virginia students to be career- or college-ready when they graduate

| Discussed a pilot program addressing nontraditional ways for students to earn high school diplomas

| Discussed the need for concrete means of measuring the success of programs

| Approved guidelines for suicide-prevention professional development for school personnel and put the guidelines up for public comment.

Reach Alison Matas at alison.matas@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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