Ohio County Schools Looking at Bond Levy for Building Upgrades

Photo by Joselyn King Constructed more than a century ago, Madison Elementary School on Wheeling Island could be among the Ohio County school facilities slated for improvements as school officials discuss a school bond levy for next year.

WHEELING — Ohio County Schools officials are discussing a possible bond issue that could lead to facility and technology improvements in school buildings, and West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine is encouraging their efforts.

That bond issue could go before voters as soon as May, according to Ohio County Schools Superintendent Kim Miller.

Speaking at the school board’s meeting last week, Paine told school district leaders the State School Building Authority is more apt to help school districts that first make an effort themselves to fund construction projects. As state superintendent, Paine is a member of the authority.

“The SBA looks very favorably upon districts that help themselves, and want to bring to the table their own local resources requesting state matching funds for meaningful projects,” he said. “So I will do my part as state superintendent of schools. I will go on record with everybody in West Virginia — including the SBA — to say … if you come forward with the resources, I’ve heard you might bring forward, we will definitely react favorably.

In October, Ohio County Board of Education members acted to hire McKinley and Associates as architects to evaluate facilities in the district and make recommendations on how they could be renovated to meet 21st century educational requirements.

In addition, board members Christine Carder and Tim Birch were appointed by the board to a committee that will review and recommend items for a potential bond issue that could go before voters next year.

The school district will have one of its current bonds paid off at the end of June, according to Business Manager Steven Bieniek.

Ohio County Schools Superintendent Kim Miller said the architects have completed their assessments, and they soon will bring that information to board members.

She hopes board members will be able to assess the information and act sometime in January to determine costs, set a bond rate and put the bond before voters in the spring.

“We’re looking for safety and curricular upgrades, as well as creating innovative spaces for learning,” Miller said.

Bond money could be used to pay for a new roof for Madison Elementary School, which was constructed more than a century ago. The SBA denied a request earlier this year to fund the project.

And Wheeling Park High School — now more than 40 years old — has seen little renovation over the years, and much of the focus of upgrades would be happening there, according to Miller. There would be improvements to science labs, as well as upgrades to areas providing STREAM learning opportunities for students in the areas of science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math education.

“We have areas in the high school that are tired,” Miller said. “We need upgrades to give students the best opportunities.

“Every student in Ohio County Schools is touched by Wheeling Park High School.”

She said school officials will host public forums to discuss the bond before it goes before voters.