Provide Details On School Plan

Monday’s announcement that the Ohio County Board of Education is considering more than $86 million in capital improvements raised many questions. They will have to be answered to the satisfaction of voters if the plan is to proceed.

As we reported, many changes and improvements are being considered. One is improving the school system’s technology curriculum and facilities. Another is establishing kitchens at most schools, replacing the current centralized meal preparation at Wheeling Park High School. Miscellaneous other projects, ranging from a new roof for Madison School to better heating systems in some buildings, are envisioned.

Keys to making it happen are to convince voters to approve a $43 million bond issue and to obtain more than $29 million from the state School Building Authority. School officials think the remaining $14 million or so can be found through savings in energy bills resulting from equipment upgrades.

Obviously, voters will want much more detail in the spending plan. They will want to know precisely how much will be spent on individual projects — and how each sum will benefit students in Ohio County public schools.

There are other questions. Among them:

– How much risk is there in counting on $14 million in energy savings when no one can predict prices of electricity and gas decades from now?

– If technology spending includes new equipment and software, how will it be replaced in just a few years when it either wears out or becomes obsolete?

– What will be the ongoing expense of the proposed changes? Specifically, the centralized meal preparation system was adopted to control expenses. How much more will it cost, in terms of new employees, particularly, to have separate kitchens at many schools?

– There was discussion last year about enrollment differences among some schools and the possibility of making changes in where children from specific areas go to school. Is school consolidation part of the $86 million plan?

Ohio County voters have never shrunk from paying higher taxes to get the best public schools they can afford. But they also want to ensure their money is being spent wisely. If they are to “sell” the bond issue, school officials should be ready to answer the questions above — and, no doubt, many others.