Ruthlawn Elementary awarded $1M by School Building Authority for improvements | Education

Ruthlawn Elementary will get an indoor sprinkler system, upgrade its fire alarms, eliminate two trailer classrooms and add a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) hub after a vote Monday by the West Virginia School Building Authority’s board.

The board voted to provide Kanawha County with $1 million, atop the school system’s own contribution of about $338,000, to complete the project.

The two trailers serve pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners. The money will add two classrooms to the school, not only eliminating the need for the portable classrooms but also adding STEM “Exploratorium” spaces, such as ones at two other Kanawha elementaries.

The county should be ready to begin soliciting bids from contractors in the spring, with construction expected to take 18 months, according to a schools spokesperson.

SBA board members also chose, in a voice vote with no one dissenting, to dole out $3.7 million more to six other counties. The following project descriptions are based on written comments from employees of the SBA, and the counties are listed in order, starting with which project staff ranked second-most worthy, behind Kanawha, and then third-most, and so on:

  • Webster received $920,000, with the county providing no matching funds, for work at Webster Springs Elementary. The work will involve bathroom renovations, including improving accessibility for disabled students, plus replacing all components of the school’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.

“The existing HVAC system components are all original to the geothermal system that was installed in the late 1990s,” the staff comments say. “The classroom units are extremely loud [and] parts are no longer available for repairs. The main system pumps for the well field are currently working over their capacity due to a failure of one of the units that the county could not afford to replace.”

  • Calhoun received $995,000, with the county providing no match, for a new roof to halt leaks and for replacing an HVAC rooftop unit at Pleasant Hill Elementary.
  • Upshur received $648,000, with the county providing $50,000, to replace a leaky roof at Union Elementary.
  • Lincoln received $676,000, with the county providing no match, to replace an HVAC system chiller and controls, and related components, at West Hamlin Elementary.
  • Randolph received $196,000, with the county providing no match, for door replacements at Tygarts Valley Middle-High.
  • Preston received $282,000, with the county providing a further $282,000, for a partial HVAC upgrade at Preston County High. The system has leaking air handlers that cause ceiling tiles to fall, and the money will replace air handlers in 26 classrooms.

While Randolph and Preston didn’t come immediately after Lincoln in the staff’s rankings, the four projects ranked ahead of them — in Wirt, Wayne, Mercer and Monroe counties, for things including a sprinkler system at Wayne Middle and HVAC upgrades at three Mercer schools — were each $1 million or more, meaning the board did not have enough money to add one of those.

The SBA gives tens of millions of dollars annually to county school systems for construction and renovation projects. The counties compete to convince the board they deserve funding from a limited pot of money.

Monday’s disbursements were from a specific fund, called the Major Improvement Projects Fund, which represents just a fraction of what the board doles out each year. Major Improvement Project grants to counties cannot exceed $1 million.

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