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Mon Schools superintendent on Renaissance Academy vote: ‘We want you well-informed’

Early voting ended Saturday in Monongalia County with a total of 6,244 ballots cast.

That was the word not long after polls closed at 5 p.m. from Carye Blaney, Mon’s county clerk.

Election Day is Tuesday for West Virginia’s primary.

Meanwhile, Eddie Campbell Jr., Mon’s superintendent of schools, was keenly interested in every single one of those early local votes.

That’s because of one contentious building on the ballot: The Renaissance Academy.

The Renaissance Academy is the name of the proposed stand-alone school for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) that the district wants to have built and open for Mon’s students by 2027.

Any student from Mon’s three public high schools — plus others who attend a charter school, private schools or are home-schooled — would be able to take classes, tuition-free, at the academy, which would be located on a tract of reclaimed land near Blue Horizon Drive.

The academy would also be open to adult learners for classes offering deep dives into STEM, plus other career technical education courses which would enhance and expand the current offerings at Monongalia County Technical Education Center.

MTEC’s Mississippi Street campus would then be reconfigured for middle-school instruction, should voters say yes to the academy.

Yes, but …

What makes the academy contentious, though, is its price tag of $142.6 million.

That’s the amount of the 30-year bond it would take to get the school built, and on the social media, where the measure has been mostly debated — citizens are seemingly for it, in a big way, or against it, just as passionately.

Proponents say the academy would make a top-performing school district in West Virginia even more so.

Expanded STEM classes there would give Mon’s students even more of an advantage as they go forth, backers say.

The career tech offerings, with their multiple certifications that students could obtain while still in school, would also be a springboard to jobs with livable-wage paychecks for students wishing to enter the workforce immediately — opposed to another four-plus years of college, and the college debt that goes with it.

“Debt,” however, is the issue for those opposed. A bond measure of nearly $143 million would saddle households already barely getting by, they contend.

Besides, they say, county voters have already been traditionally generous to Mon Schools. An excess levy that brings in $30 million annually enables the district to offer expanded courses that many of its neighbors across the Mountain State can’t.

An informed electorate

While the district and others in favor say the Renaissance Academy will build the workforce and engage students like never before, those who have voted no — or are going to — say MTEC, with its 98% attendance rate and high job-placement numbers, is already doing that.

Campbell, meanwhile, has been making the rounds to get out the vote, and Ron Lytle, Mon’s Board of Education president, has also.

The superintendent has talked to local school-improvement councils and parent-teacher associations across the district.

Lytle has been speaking at community events while taking questions on his Facebook page.

If you haven’t already, Campbell wants you to visit

The district’s web page features computer animations of what the academy would look like, along with an extensive rundown of its mission and motivation, including composite schedules of a student’s typical schedule and lengthy Q&A sections.

Campbell said he was hopeful for Tuesday’s ultimate outcome. Either way, he said, he appreciates the dialogue and the process.

“That’s the beauty of living in the United States of America. The voters say what gets done.”

“Our biggest goal is to educate people on what the Renaissance Academy will mean to the community,” he continued.

“We want you to be well-informed, before you make the decision that’s best for your household.”

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