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Upshur Schools receive $800,000 in grant funding

BUCKHANNON –Upshur County Schools received nearly $800,000 in grant funding this week to tackle two major projects — a roof replacement at Union Elementary School and a county-wide phone system upgrade to speed up emergency notification.

The School Building Authority of West Virginia awarded Upshur County Schools a $648,243 Major Improvement Project grant for Union Elementary. The school system will fund $50,000 towards the project.

At Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting, facilities director Tim Derico said, “That roof is the age of the building which is 1988 and it has reached its life expectancy. We have patched and repatched and attempted to band-aid it through. Hopefully, in the near future that will not an issue any longer.”

Union Principal Michelle Fleming said in a press release, “The leadership team of Union Elementary School is very pleased to hear the great news of our roof replacement project. The new roof will ensure the safety and well-being of all students and staff of Union Elementary School. We truly appreciate and are thankful of all of those who helped make this possible. Union Elementary is an incredible school and we want to ensure that all aspects of our facilities ensure a safe, welcoming environment for all members of our learning community.”

Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus said in a release, “Though Upshur County Schools maintains preventive care of their aging buildings as much as funds and staffing permit, the roof condition at our newest school, Union Elementary, built in 1988, reflects the need for new school buildings.”

Derico said he has not spoken with the architect about the timeline for the bid process or when the project would start but said winter could be a possibility.

“The Hodgesville roof project last winter was extremely successful considering the circumstances,” Derico said. “With the right contractor, it is feasible. The freezing and thawing of winter is not something we want to deal with, but at same time if it means we are going to have a better job at the end, we will keep band-aiding it as long as we have to. We want the best roof job possible.”

Also this week, Upshur County Schools received $146,230 from the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services’ School Violence Prevention Program.

Dr. Jeff Harvey, director of school safety and emergency preparedness, said the grant will upgrade mass notification capabilities through the existing phone system.

The upgrade will mean that notification of an emergency system in the schools can reach everyone it needs to be at a much faster rate.

For example, if there were an active assailant in a school, those incidents are over in five to six minutes based on FBI data, according to Harvey.

“We went back through 12 years of drill reports and averaged it out,” he said. “We were taking a good portion of that time to just be able to issue the notification. What this will do is allow an all-call capability in every room of the building to be able to prompt an emergency response. We are taking something that takes too much time down to as soon as someone recognizes that there is a situation they will have the capability to notify everyone else in the building.

“That notification is not just internal to our building, but also to the emergency response agencies that will be coming to help out.”

Over the last couple years, Upshur County Schools has benefited from another Department of Justice grant to upgrade safety and preparedness.

“What we have tried to do is increase the ability to be able to surveil and investigate incidents through the cameras,” Harvey said. “We have been able to monitor and further control exterior access into our buildings through the door security. Both of those were joint projects with Lewis County. This one closes the loop on some of that if we do have a situation to be able to get that notification out safely.”

The timeline for implementing the upgrade has not been determined.

“I would imagine starting to convene planning committees to really take a look at this around the turn of the calendar year,” he said. “Like the other COPS funding we have gotten through the DOJ, I want to say it is a two-year grant. If we are able to get started on that around the turn of the calendar year, we can make a lot of the administrative decisions in the spring and be able to use a year and a half worth of grant time to actually implement the project.”

Harvey said this is a collaborative project that involves the Upshur County Commission, Upshur County Sheriff’s Department and others.

“We do this with the assistance of a lot of community agencies,” he said. “It’s not just the county commission, not just the sheriff’s departme3nts. All of those agencies community wise that serve on county wide committee, they are really the ones that say what they want to do and help us collect the data to make it happen.”

In a press release, Dr. Tammy Samples, president of the board of education, thanked Congressman Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) for his continued support and assistance in securing this school safety grant.

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