BUCKHANNON – Local Rotarians expressed support for the ‘vision for the future’ of Upshur County schools following a presentation Tuesday by Superintendent Sara Lewis-Stankus, Deputy Superintendent Debra Harrison and Treasurer Jeffrey Perkins.
Dr Stankus, in addition to Dr Harrison and Mr Perkins, provided updates regarding their plans for a full new career and technical high school, as well as a complete renovation of the current Buckhannon-Upshur high school to become the new Buckhannon- Upshur College.
As the trio presented to several stakeholder groups over the past few weeks, the current college was built in 1925 and is almost 100 years old. Dr Stankus explained that when they went into the community and spoke with stakeholders, they were reminded that “we are not building middle schools, we are building secondary schools”. She said, “It was an ‘aha moment’ for us.” During their CEFP meetings, one member came up with a slogan for the project that others felt very well suited to, noted Dr Stankus: “Schools our children deserve. “
Dr Stankus explained the condition of the current B-UMS building, which she says has been showing its age for some time. They should reduce any area where they have to drill a hole because of asbestos, “which is expensive,” she said. Dr Stankus recalled that when she first became superintendent, they had to downsize a classroom and at that time it would have cost $ 26,000. The cost of maintaining the building in general has increased each year, totaling over $ 700,000 last year.
She also explained that the physical classrooms at B-UMS are much smaller and less conducive to the kind of hands-on learning environment they would like to have. “Teachers have said that this hinders their ability to teach in an acceptable way in the 21st century,” said Dr Stankus. She showed a comparison between a classroom at B-UMS and one in Berkley County and noted, “Our kids really deserve better. “
The total estimated amount to complete construction of a new high school, in addition to a complete renovation of the current B-UHS for a “redesigned” college, will cost $ 49 million over 15 years. The renovation of the high school will cost around $ 7-9 million.
In 2011, taxpayers bought property near the current B-UHS. Although the CEFP board members looked at other properties, especially near the airport, which would have been ideal for some of the planned technical training, they ultimately chose the property already purchased by taxpayers to reduce costs. In addition, it would be safer to have two schools on the same campus. This proximity will also allow the two schools to collaborate and use shared access to sports facilities and CTE programs, with additional sports facilities included in the $ 49 million renovation and construction project.
In the new comprehensive technical high school, a free 2-year associate’s degree program from surrounding colleges and technical career programs will be available for students providing training in the flight and aviation programs. Dr Stankus noted that their programs will not operate in competition with the Fred Eberle Tech Center, but will rather collaborate. “The principal at Fred Eberle is very excited about this high school,” said Dr Stankus. With this full new career and technical high school, they will also be able to offer adults the same evening opportunities at this new facility, Dr Stankus told Rotarians.
As the total cost of the project is estimated at $ 70 million, the school board will be asked to contribute $ 21 million. “The community asked for this and we have listened,” said Dr Stankus. “They didn’t just want a new high school; they wanted a full vocational technical high school.
With this vision for the future of Upshur County schools, the economy should also be boosted by providing more and better education, certifications and ultimately more and better opportunities for students, in addition to the adult population, said Dr Stankus. She added: “This is not just about a new building, but about changing the way we educate our students.”
Dr Harrison mentioned that they work closely with higher education institutions, such as West Virginia Wesleyan College, Glenville State College and potentially Pierpont Technical College. “We want to be sure that our students leave B-UHS with the opportunity to join the workforce and earn a living that will allow them to be productive members of their community… Or if they want to go to college, they will have at least two years under their belt. We will save families a lot of money. Two years of essentially free college tuition for our students will be amazing, ”said Dr Harrison.
According to the presenters, their goal is to create a facility that meets the needs of businesses, not only locally, but also state and country. Thanks to this, Dr Stankus noted that they will also focus on soft skills such as good communication – verbal and written – when looking for job opportunities, in addition to things like watching someone. in the eyes as you speak, and the importance of showing off at work. She concluded, “I know our children deserve this. They deserve the best.
Rotarians Rich Clemens, Don Nestor and President Kathy McMurray congratulated the group on this concept of a new and improved environment for local students. Nestor stressed that encouragement as a community and as a community, for students and administrators in Upshur County, is very important. “This is a good opportunity to do so,” added Nestor.
McMurray strongly encourages the community to attend the public meetings, so you can see “what the vision really is”. She explained, “It’s a great vision, and as Dr Stankus said, ‘our children deserve it.’ “
In other news for the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur, several upcoming service projects are underway as the holidays approach. Most urgently, the organization will help with the distribution of the Parish House Thanksgiving basket, in addition to providing meals to health workers at St. Joseph’s Hospital on October 26.