Cumberland Times-News

November 2, 2013

Plans begin to rebuild W.Va. Schools for the Deaf, Blind

Cumberland Times-News

— ROMNEY, W.Va. — In a major step forward, the advisory board of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind decided last week to have the original facilities plan amended and look at the renovations and/or reconstruction of the residential centers first.

This decision comes just weeks after the state board of education made the decision to keep the schools in Romney, and after many months of turmoil and a number of meetings discussing the fate of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.

Lynn Boyer is superintendent of the schools.

“Out of all the swirl of things in the last couple of years, a number of people currently in leadership positions at the state level are very interested in helping to support the schools,” Boyer said.

“We will be looking at amending the facilities plan, and we can almost assume the facilities plan will be routinely amended.”

The first amendment plan is due to the board in December.

“We have to look at which work will be done. I anticipate we will work on the residential center first, which actually came later in the original plan,” Boyer said.

Currently one dorm is closed on the campus and another needs repaired.

“We have to look at safety issues first,” Boyer said.

Boyer said they have a better sense from the community what buildings have particular historical concern.

“We are prepared to step back and look at those buildings and see what is the best route to take, rather repurposing or redesigning a building,” Boyer said.

“That was not always the case in the original plan.”

Boyer said she understands that taking down a building on the 143-year-old campus is very unsettling to the people of Romney.

“We have a better idea of where the touch points are and more sensitive to each other’s point of view,” said Boyer.

In addition, Boyer said with help from Sen. Donald Cookman and Delegate Ruth Rowan, “We are familiar with their role and how to get requests for funding through legislative options.”

Rowan also attended the meeting in Charleston.

“The meeting was really great. We got lots of positive feedback from lots of wonderful people,” Rowan said.

“The key words were health and safety and what was best for the students.”

Currently, the schools have requested $250,000 from the School Building Authority to repair the roof of the Elementary School for the Deaf.

“We know now there are federal grants available. We didn’t have that kind of information before,” Boyer said.

“I am feeling more optimistic. We have information that will help us that we didn’t have last year. We can move forward with a plan, which is really feedback on the original plan.”

Boyer said there is no question some things will have to be scaled back.

Regardless, she said, the emphasis will be on safety and security and the best design for the children.

Boyer said she is optimistic that the amended plan will begin implementation in 18 months or so.

The original facilities renovation and rebuilding plan was estimated to cost $82.4 million.

In another move of support several local people have met with Mark Gandolfi, chief financial officer of the schools, to discuss an endowment fund.

“I’ve met with Les Shoemaker, Patty Anderson and Amy Pancake. We are in preliminary planning. We’re looking into an existing 501c3 situation whereby charitable donations could be tax-deductible,” Gandolfi said.

The fund could be used for capital projects on the campus.

Gandolfi said plans are to form a board to serve as a committee for the foundation.

He said the next meeting will be held Nov. 8 at 8 a.m. at Taggart Hall.

“I think this is a great collaborative effort,” Boyer said.