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Highlights from Monday’s Board of Education Meeting, 11/18/19

By Derek Tyson, The Welch News Editor

WELCH, WV – The Board of Education held a regular meeting on Monday, November 18th, 2019 to discuss some of the following: 

Recognition of a School Volunteer for Outstanding Act of Service

After the approval of previous meeting minutes, the Board of Education took time to honor a school volunteer for her act of service. 

“About a month ago, we had an incident with a bus driver having a medical emergency,” said Superintendent Carolyn Falin. “He was in Gary at the Bantam Market, needed immediate care and had to get off the bus. Ms. Slagle just happened to be there. She didn’t have to, but while she was there she got on the bus, consoling the kids. She sang with them, contacted Welch Elementary to let them know what was going on and that she was with them. That they were safe.”

Beverly Slagle was presented a Certificate of Appreciation from the Board of Education as well as a pin for her outstanding act of service. 

Presentation from Facilities and Maintenance Department 

Facilities and Maintenance Department Director Will Chapman addressed the Board next, giving an overview of his department’s completed and ongoing projects. 

“A huge one was closing Anawalt and relocating all those assets,” said Chapman. “We had some extra help with that this summer. It went well but there was a lot of time involved in that.” 

The Turf install at River View’s new football field was the other big project completed this year. 

New Fire Alarm Panels were required at both Welch Elementary and Sandy River. 

“Both of those were causing issues with the Fire Marshal. The panel at Welch Elem. was roughly 40 years old,” said Chapman. “The one at Sandy River had to be updated because some of the issues the Fire Marshal had written up couldn’t be fixed because of the age of the panel, which was 22 years old.”

A concrete basketball court was installed behind Bradshaw Elementary for the older kids to use and refinishing of most of the hardwood floors at County Middle Schools and Iaeger Elementary were completed. 

The Intercom System at Fall River Elementary School saw some much needed repairs as well. 

“It’s a redo of the old intercom system at Fall River. They went without that pretty much all last year and it was hard to ask them to do that,” said Chapman. “We got through it and have a little bit of an updated system there now. We left the hardware devices in the building and went with a new front end on that.”

Chapman also spoke about ongoing projects in the school system, such as the retooling of Sandy River Middle School’s Water Plant. 

“That’s one we’ve had on our list for awhile that needs some serious TLC,” said Chapman. “We’re going to need more than beyond what we’re giving it, but it’s getting a makeover now. Along with that, replacing all the deteriorated lines inside Sandy River. That water continues to be extremely abrasive to that entire system down there.”

Welch Elementary School will soon be home to an Outdoor Learning Space, after having raised enough money to cover material costs. 

The demolition of Northfork High School is also moving forward. 

“We have a meeting Thursday morning with a contractor. The low-bidder three years ago has agreed to honor his bid,” said Chapman. “I want him to be there and go through the property one more time. It’s been awhile since he’s been there. What I didn’t want is letting them move their equipment in and saying ‘Oh wow, this is a whole lot worse than it was, we need another hundred thousand dollars’.”

Construction of Mount View’s new Football Stadium is underway despite recent the cold weather.

“Weather has really sowed it down but if the weather holds out, they’ll have all the earth work done by next week for the turf to begin install,” said Chapman.

A new spray-on roof for Kimball Elementary will also soon go to bid, according to Chapman. 

“One of the things I’m most proud of during my time here is hiring this paint crew over the summer time,” said Chapman. “We have expanded that from the first summer I was here. We had like 4 or 5 people for 6 weeks. Now we’re up to 6 and I’d like to have more than that. They’re bus drivers and once they park their bus, they start painting.”

According to Chapman, the team of painters exceeding 300,000 square feet of paint across five different schools in McDowell County. With the drought of summer, grounds crews were able to cut problematic trees on some scheduled grass cutting days. 

“As far as my staff goes, I feel blessed to have these guys,” said Chapman. “We sent them out this morning to their jobs while waiting on a truck to deliver clothing at our warehouse. The truck hits the underpass. We had to call 3 or 4 guys off out of 7. It took them awhile to handle that and it’s just a typical day. It’s a fire fight almost every day.”

“Why can’t we go talk to the legislature about adding some more maintenance people. How many more would you need,” asked Board member Mike Mitchem. 

“I would say 3 or 4 more adequately trained guys,” answered Chapman.

“They need specialties as well, like HVAC,” said Falin. 

“Yeah HVAC, we’re working on training some of our guys now that are pretty good at that. But you get into all these systems,” said Chapman. “Just because he knows HVAC doesn’t mean he knows how to work on every system. Mr. Nash retired. You’re not going to replace a plumber with 35 years of experience, you’re just not.”

“We’ve got to keep the schools up though,” said Mitchem. “I think that’s why we’re seeing them close across the state because they don’t have the maintenance crew to work on them.” 

“Enrollment may drop, but the school stays the same as well,” said Mike Callaway. 

“We’ve closed off the 4th floor of Mount View. We’ve reduced the custodial staff there but unfortunately, we don’t have that ability to close off sections in other schools. That was one we were able to do and it has helped tremendously.”

Chapman also went over what he considered eminent needs for the Maintenance Department, starting with a worsening roof at Fall River Elementary next in line after Kimball Elementary. Rooftop HVAC units at Sandy River are also at the end of their life cycle. 

“At 15 years, the State recommends forming a plan to replace the roof top units.These are all 20 years old,” said Chapman. “We have done some internal part change outs to extend the life because I know we don’t have the million dollars we need.”

“What are they, 100 thousand right,” asked Mitchem. 

“They’re probably in the neighborhood of 100-150 thousand per unit. So you’re looking at several million dollars there,” answered Chapman. 

The HVAC control system at Mount View is nearing 20 years of age as well, with parts from the original manufacturer no longer available. Chapman said they have had to rely on machine shop fabrication but it’s not a very good solution. 

“Does the original company have an updated panel,” asked Mike Callaway. 

“They do, you have the front end operating system. Just to update that would be about 80,000 dollars,” said Chapman. “The system that we have now is not quite as bad as running off an old Dos system, but it’s close.”

Bradshaw Elementary’s system is in worse shape. According to Chapman, the Maintenance Department attempted to secure State funding but was not selected for the award. 

“We don’t have any control over the system at Bradshaw at all, it’s just running in the background,” said Chapman. “We are operating it manually with seven guys that are dealing with trucks hitting underpasses. We’re going to get a front end that at least allows us to operate the building.”

Chapman said he can operate most schools’ HVAC systems from his phone. 

“Bradshaw, Mount View and Southside are the last three we don’t have on the new system,” said Chapman.

The Board of Education is also considering relocating their central office as the current building grows worse every year. 

“We are getting to the point of where I have started moving forward on some repairs at the old office,” said Chapman. “We are beyond the point to where I feel safe not doing anything there because we’ve not moved forward on relocation.”

Potential relocation sites include the former Dollar Store property in Welch, the old Kroger near Paul Jones Park, purchasing two floors of office space in the new Renaissance Village. 

“Something another county tried successfully was building a 2 story building with the football field house on the bottom and the Board office on top,” said Chapman. “The other option would be the modular structure that served as Anawalt Elementary.”

“Don’t those modular structures have a shelf life,” asked Callaway.

“Yes and no. The manufacturer’s guide said odds are in 10 years you’ll see significant wear and tear,” said Chapman. “They won’t look you in the eye and tell you they’re no good.”

“Some of the floors came out too didn’t they,” asked Mitchem.

“They had holes punched in them within a month of school,” said Chapman. 

Board President David Williams asked about potentially using solar power in the school system. 

“I know Grant county went with a solar panel system, and made their school totally solar, all green,” said Williams. “Like maybe at mount view where they get 17-18 hours of sunshine, could we find a grant writer for a project like that?”

“We’ve got that small pilot system we went in cohorts with Marshall University on,” said Chapman. “We don’t use it like we used to, but it is still functional. There’s plenty of room for that so we can look into it.”