CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Despite the heated discussion that fueled a nearly four-hour meeting of the state School Building Authority Monday, one decision was clear from the start: the authority wants to create the state's first inter-county elementary school.
A project that will combine elementary schools in Lewis and Gilmer counties received $9.68 million, the largest chunk from the authority's $38 million pie.
Of the 23 projects proposed, it was unanimously approved during both the first and second round of debates and was the first to be confirmed for funding.
"We're extremely excited," said Ron Blankenship, Gilmer County superintendent. "It's just going to be a win-win for both of our counties."
Troy Elementary in Gilmer County and Alum Bridge Elementary in Lewis County will consolidate at the new school, which will be located in the border community of Linn.
The authority reported that both schools are in poor condition and that the consolidation will help the counties save or avoid roughly $1 million annually.
Mark Manchin, executive director of the authority, said this is the first project of its kind to be funded since the authority was created in 1989.
Kurt Dettinger, designee chair for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, was one of several board members who said the Legislature is pushing for schools of this nature. He said he hoped the project would lead to similar endeavors in the near future.
The project is still in the planning phase, said Ted Schriver, lead architect. There is no design yet for the building, but Shriver said a concept was provided to both counties.
Officials from both counties will take part in designing and planning the school, Shriver said, and that could take several months.
Although there's an outside chance construction could start this fall, Shriver thought it was more likely site work would begin in the spring of 2013. He expects students to be attending classes there by the fall of 2014.
The new school will hold about 240 students from kindergarten to sixth grade.