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December 3, 2013

First phase of WVSDB rebuild estimated to cost $20 million

ROMNEY, W.Va. — Detailed plans for the first phase of construction for the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind was shared with the Romney City Council on Monday evening.

Schools superintendent Lynn Boyer said a proposal had been sent to the School Building Authority.

“That doesn’t mean shovels will hit the ground next week,” Boyer said in an interview following the meeting.

Boyer said the visit to the council was to keep them fully up to date following the aftermath of the recent decision to keep the schools in Romney.

The first phase of the project, estimated to cost $20 million, Boyer said, will take place from 2014 through 2018.

“The priority is to establish new, smaller residential learning centers so that we will not be maintaining big dormitories,” Boyer said.

“We are moving, as many schools are, to establish a smaller homelike residence for kids.”

The new facilities will be divided by grade, sex, deaf and blind.

“They will have their own kitchen and technology area. There will be areas where the kids can get together and watch TV,” Boyer said.

Within that complex will be six or eight of these small resident learning centers, she added.

The layout will be sort of a community setting with its own walkways, lighting and have a sense of home.  

A new student center will be used by all students. It will have a dining room, cafeteria, tech and media center.

“Those are things now housed in different places. We feel they should be housed in one central area,” Boyer said.

Plans are to consolidate some of the buildings and functions.

Currently kids have to walk long distances to reach the gym or cafeteria.

“This is really an effort to make a much more cohesive campus. And at the same time we can take care of some of the security and safety issues,” Boyer said.

Mayor Dan Hileman said, “This is good to bring the city into the mix early. As it progresses we want to be a part of it.”

The big interest for the city is to be involved in the development of the water and sewer at the campus to be able to address surface water drainage.

The city struggles with inflow and infiltration of storm water into its sewer system.

“By Dr. Boyer coming here and sharing what is happening, it gives the city a heads-up in being involved,” Hileman said.

Councilman Dennis Morris said he thought the smaller living units are the way to go. Morris said that is how the Burlington Home Campus was redesigned.

Lisa Hileman expressed her appreciation on the schools being transparent and said by doing so there would be less chance of rumors flowing about.

Boyer said she is preparing papers for the four area legislators — Sen. Donald Cookman and Delegates Ruth Rowan, Daryl Cowles and Craig Blair — to take with them to interim meetings in Charleston next week.

“The four of them have worked with us in the last few weeks in presenting our proposal,” Boyer said.

“I feel very encouraged by this process. There has been so little maintenance at the schools in the past. We can’t do this all at one time. The residential learning centers have to be first.”

Funding is being sought from the SBA, the school, and the Legislature.

The next phase is also expected to be about $20 million, Boyer said.

Boyer said there are some changes from the original facilities plans.

“We are not tearing down as many buildings. The only one we are certain of tearing down is Seaton Hall. It will be demolished after all the other buildings are constructed and vacated by the students currently there,” Boyer said.

Plans are to work toward replacing Seaton Hall with something that can be shared with the community.

Boyer introduced the schools chief financial officer, Mark Gandolfi, whom she said is becoming more involved in some of the city organizations to raise money, grants and the proposed endowment for the schools.

Contact Marla Pisciotta at marlapisciotta@frontier.com.

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