Upshur BOE OKs measure to buy property

BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Board of Education has its eye on nine acres of property that New Community Church is planning to sell near Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

After an executive session to discuss the Route 20 property at a previous meeting, board members again entered an executive session Tuesday in a special meeting for approximately 20 minutes.

Following the session, board vice president Katie Loudin moved that the board of education pursue an option to purchase agreement with New Community Church. Board member Dr. Greenbrier Almond seconded the motion which passed unanimously.

The property is located beside of the existing Hockenberry farm property the school system owns and diagonal to the entrance to Buckhannon-Upshur High School on Route 20. A red brick house sits on the nine acres.

Board president Dr. Tammy Samples said, “We are pursuing it but we aren’t ready to purchase. We are talking to them about an option to purchase.

“There’s been some conversation that the bus garage could move there and there is some conversation of expanding with a high tunnel for the vo-ag program,” she said. “Because it is adjacent we are looking at all of those options. Those are things that have been discussed in the past.”

Loudin said, “We are trying to be fiscally responsible so I think we just need to make sure we have our ducks in a row financially.”

In 2010, the board of education purchased the Hockenberry property beside of Buckhannon-Upshur High School as the potential site of a new school.

With that came the property across the road for a total of 116 acres. At the site across the road, the vo-agriculture program uses the barn.

Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus said the school system is beginning its Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan update, something that must be undertaken every 10 years.

“Now, we will be asking our community stakeholders to give input about what they want for their schools and the plan for the next 10 years,” she said.

Samples pointed to a project that was on the last CEFP — a new middle school facility.

“We are going to have to build a school in the next few years because the middle school is deteriorating,” she said. “There’s some conversation about whether we build a middle school or we build a high school and move the middle school to the high school.”

Board member Alan Suder said the first step prior to applying to the School Building Authority for a grant for a new middle school previously was to secure property which the board did.

The school system then received a $13.1 million grant which it had to give back when Upshur County voters failed to pass a bond that would have funded the remainder of the new middle school as well as site improvements at all the schools in the county.

The plan for the new middle school called for adding fifth-graders to the middle school in a separate wing which was something that the state school board wanted to see in new middle schools at the time so the local board followed that concept, according to Suder.

“I feel that is part of the reason the bond was defeated,” he said. “We were not able to financially move forward, but we still have a really nice plan from Williamson and Shriver that showed the facility complete.”

The board then adjourned into executive session to discuss the superintendent’s contract with no action to be taken.

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