BES heating closer to restoration

BUCKHANNON – Officials have received a part needed to repair a heating component at Belington Elementary School, but the students moved from the school to Belington Middle School may remain there through the end of the school year.

Facilities Director Glen Sweet told the Barbour County Board of Education Monday a new heat exchanger, the replacement part for the heating unit, recently arrived. Sweet said the old heat exchanger has been removed and now a crew will install the new part.

The heater problem was discovered after a gas odor prompted the evacuation of the entire school on Jan. 15. After students returned to the school, three grade levels were moved to Belington Middle School, located behind BES, due to the heating problem.

The timely installation of the part is subject to the weather because the unit is located on the roof of the school, and the installation will require the use of a crane, Sweet said.

“The weather is the major factor in the installation process,” he said.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Super and other school board members are still considering the possibility that the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade BES students might not return to BES to finish the remainder of the school year. School officials said it may simply be too late in the school year to interrupt those students’ education with another move. There was no formal vote on the topic Monday.

Sweet also reported an incident in Belington on Friday evening in which damage was sustained by the front pavilion and nearby fencing, roof flashing and venting at Belington Elementary School.

Exact damage estimates had not been prepared, but Sweet said he believes the construction of the pavilion may have been partly to blame for why it collapsed. He said the posts were secured using a metal sheet and some small bolts, rather than being embedded into the concrete base.

When the pavilion fell, it caused damage to the fence, Sweet said. He added he is uncertain if an insurance claim can be made because of the construction faults, but that a deductible on an insurance claim might still be more than the value of the pavilion.

Also at Monday’s BOE meeting:

– Financial Director Annette Hughart provided the BOE with several options for the upcoming fiscal year budget, which has not yet been finalized. She asked members what their preference would be as far as continuing to allocate funds in support of outside services, such as local libraries and the West Virginia University Extension Office.

No vote was cast on the matter, but BOE member Joanne McConnell said she was in favor of the continued support of those services. Hughart said the differences in the two potential budgets that she and central office staff have been working on is that supporting those kinds of services, which help students of Barbour County, would mean a difference of $3,ooo in the budget.

“If we achieve all the cuts that we discussed, it’s going to be very tough,” Hughart said, adding the figures for timber, coal and oil and gas allocations estimated for the school board by the county assessor’s office are down from what they were in past years.

BOE President Bob Wilkins said that preparing the budget is a “daunting task.”

“The community needs to know about how much of a task it is to do the budget,” Wilkins said. “It is not willy-nilly. There’s a lot of time, effort and thought that goes into it and always, always, the bottom line is how can you provide the best services to the kids of this community and this county, and in such a cost-effective manner that you don’t break the bank.”

The BOE’s next meeting at 6 p.m. on May 12 at the Barbour County Board of Education will include a public hearing on the budget, Super said. After the public hearing, budget adjustments may be made. Then, the budget will come before the BOE for a vote.

“I’d like to thank our central office staff,” Super said. “They literally spent months trying to get this down to where we thought we could manage it.”