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Tornado school upgrades funds rejected

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the state School Building Authority have again rejected Kanawha County school officials' appeal for state funding to renovate Andrews Heights Elementary School in Tornado.

This was the third time Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring has asked for funding for the school, which has to house students in four portable outdoor classrooms and has limited kitchen and cafeteria space.

"It would've been nice to get them out of the portables and into the building and expand the cafeteria, but we also have to remember we've gotten our fair share of School Building Authority money in the past. You can't get [approved] every time you go for a project," Duerring said after Monday's SBA meeting, where officials distributed $50 million for school projects to counties across the state.

Duerring, who had requested about $1.9 million for renovations to Andrews Heights, said the county already has taken measures to remedy any environmental problems with the portables after high levels of carbon dioxide and traces of mold were found in them in 2011.

While no money was awarded for the project, Scott Raines, the authority's director of architectural services, acknowledged the need for renovations to the school.

"This is probably the smallest kitchen I think I have ever seen" in a school, Raines said. "It's remarkable they can cook and provide food for students."

Last month, when Kanawha County officially requested the funding for renovations to the school, Andrews Heights Principal Suzanne Armstrong voiced safety concerns posed by the use of the portables.

"All of the portables have kids in them every day, all day long," she said. "The county has done a lot of work on them, but at this point, the biggest concern is a safety issue. They're not part of the main building. If there was some sort of a safety emergency, can we get to them and communicate with them?"

Kanawha County Schools officials may again ask the SBA to fund the project in the future, Duerring said.

Also at Monday's meeting, SBA officials awarded about $1.7 million to Boone County for improvements to Sherman Junior/Senior High School. The project has a focus on safety and will provide new secure main entrances and better parking conditions. This was the third submission of a project for the school, and the county will contribute more than $700,000 in local funds.

Cabell County Schools will also receive money for an addition and renovation to Culloden Elementary School. The SBA awarded the school system more than $3.5 million that will include asbestos abatement and improve several areas of the school to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Ritchie County was awarded about $4.5 million to construct a four-classroom, kitchen and dining addition, as well as school access safety improvements at Harrisville Elementary School.

Harrison County was awarded about $8.2 million to construct a new Lumberport Middle School on the existing Lincoln High School campus.

SBA officials rejected Mingo County's request for $8.6 million to renovate and expand Burch Middle School, despite state Superintendent Jim Phares' support for the project.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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