Would you pay $72 million for a new school?
That’s what Monongalia County’s Board of Education would like to know, since the pitch will be made in the near future, with the goal of welcoming students over the next 10 years.
The above-mentioned number with the dollar sign and kite-tail of zeros (if you were seeing it on your bank statement) is the estimate of a proposed building with a very specific cause.
Make that a very technical one.
So christened the “Renaissance Academy,” the building would be a gleaming showcase of career and technical education in the county.
It would be outfitted with all the hardware, software, diagnostic equipment and outlays — ideally — from corporate sponsors, to mimic today’s specialized workplaces for students who don’t necessarily want to go to college but still want schooled in a career.
The academy would be Mon’s fourth public high school, but not a standalone entity.
It would be a magnet school, in effect, for the county’s other three existing high schools.
Morgantown High students and their counterparts from University and Clay-Battelle could rotate in two days a week for technical instruction, without having to sacrifice their other classes in the core disciplines.
The concept, Mon Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said, was inspired by a similar school in Loudoun County, Va.
He gives the model high marks for students sidestepping college due to inclination or economic circumstance.
And, he said, for the student interested perhaps in engineering who would be allowed to get his hands dirty — while still making his AP history class.
The pitch is the centerpiece of the latest upgrade of the district’s Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan, or CEFP, a paradigm-shifting, dice-roll that happens every 10 years.
Such as the 2020-30 edition, which is now being completed, coronavirus and all.
If you think $72 million is an improbable price tag for a new educational facility, consider what happened under the CEFP for 2010-20, when Eastwood Elementary was built.
It’s going where?
Eastwood is the only officially green school in Mon, meaning it was constructed with environmentally friendly materials and practices, in such a way to make the very building renewable and sustainable.
It’s also the only LEED-certified one, receiving its Leadership in Energy, Environment and Design stamp from the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council.
The site the district selected for Eastwood, however, wasn’t as harmonious as the blueprints.
With its traffic congestion, plus a then-popular gentlemen’s club just a few stoplights over, Mileground Road was considered an improbable address to the school’s mission.
So improbable, even, that parents and other protestors packed Board of Education meetings for weeks — until the earth was moved anyway.
What about this? And this, too?
Call the CEFP an infrastructure owner’s manual that’s also in the speculation business.
It projects out for classroom renovations and the construction of new buildings — which may (or may not) become obsolete in the not-so-distant future, as digital learning gets to be more of the learning-norm.
It dons a realtor hat to consider where the next Dan Ryan development might go and how that construction might affect the incoming kindergarten class of the closest school.
And now, in Mon, it will ask the state School Building Authority, the entity that doles dollars for construction and renovation in districts, to make that $72 million consideration.
The price comes in, said Ted Shriver, the architect who designed Eastwood Elementary, because of the integration of lab space and work areas with traditional classrooms.
Outfitting the place with the latest technology won’t be cheap either, Barbara Parsons said.
Parsons is the steering committee co-chair who helped lead the CEFP sessions. She’s a former Board of Education member who served stints as president.
“It’s about crafting a vision,” she said. “And when you have a vision, you can accomplish anything.”
You can add your vision by taking a survey online. Visit https://boe.mono.k12.wv.us/ and follow the Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan link for a video overview and the survey.
Don’t Zoom to the bank just yet
Parsons was on the board for the 2000-10 rework of the plan that saw the construction of a new University High School on Bakers Ridge, and the 2010-20 edition that gave Eastwood to Mon and the Mileground.
She and the other planners for the most recent document chuckled at the paradigm shift ushered in by the pandemic.
Attendance was better via Zoom, after quarantining ended the in-person discussion sessions.
Should one have $72 million making eye contact on one’s device, well, of course there’s going to be talk, said Nancy Walker, the longtime incumbent and current president of the BOE.
“I know I’m going to hear this. Seventy-two million for one facility, and I’m not doubting this is all something we’d like to see … that seems to be a lot.”