Grant To Fund JMHS Upgrades

The 44-year-old John Marshall High School building will undergo $16 million in renovations over the next few years after a $7 million grant from the West Virginia School Building Authority was approved earlier this week.

The Marshall County School District has been trying to find funding for several years to renovate the building, which has had very little work done to it in its history. According to Superintendent Fred Renzella, the district submitted a revised application to the SBA last year and received a planning grant, which allowed for the creation of plans and schematic designs. The first phase of the design was resubmitted to the SBA, which found it to be sufficient enough to grant the $7 million in funding.

“The entire authority voted positively for it,” Renzella said.

The funds will be added to $6.2 million in district contributions to the project, and a $2 million loan will be taken out to cover the remainder of the nearly $16 million needed for the renovations. The district’s portion of the funds will be taken from the recently passed excess levy, which asked county taxpayers for an additional $16 million in funding.

“The only reason we were able to secure this money was because our voters supported the renewal of our levy and chose to continue to invest in making our schools healthy and safe,” Renzella said. “The SBA is always willing to fund projects in communities that make investments in education, and without our voters making that investment, we would have nothing.”

The scope of the work at John Marshall has changed as new plans were submitted, but Renzella said the main needs remain the same. At the forefront is the condition of the walking bridges that connect the buildings and entrances, which were deemed unsafe by a West Virginia fire marshal last year. The district paid to make necessary, temporary repairs to bring the buildings up to code, but Renzella said a complete overhaul is necessary.

Outside, all parking lots and asphalt areas will be paved, the tennis court area will be replaced completely and a concession stand and restroom area will be built to accommodate athletes and spectators. Inside, all restrooms will be renovated, upgrades will be made to the HVAC core system, higher security doors will be installed, as will new ceilings and windows. Renzella said by the time the windows are ready to be installed, he expects a new technology aimed to improve safety will be available and possibly used.

“There is a product that is place on the windows that protects them from someone trying to shoot the window out,” he said of the new technology.

Renzella said the only issue still up for debate is possible changes to the entrance to the school.

He said while members of the board of education agree security needs to be upgraded, they are not in agreement with the current schematic design. A design recently presented to the board showed the main entrance at the north end of the building, not in the middle as it currently sits.

“The entrance and safety changes will be re-evaluated by the board and adjusted how they see fit,” Renzella said.

The work could start as early as this summer and will done in phases over a few years during breaks so it will not interfere with classes.