PARKERSBURG, W.Va. - 2/14/2017 10 :30 P.M.
Waverly Elementary School remains open - but left unresolved: the site for a new Williamstown Elementary School.
The Wood County Board of Education Tuesday night rejected the former Fenton Glass property as the school's new site.
The vote came after an hour of discussion over the environmental condition of the plant site, where decorative glass products were made for more than a century.
Speakers, who included Williamstown Mayor Jean Ford, insisted the property is free of any contamination.
But board members said they've heard concerns from the public and questioned supporters of the site.
"My issue is, if it's an industrial site, why do we want to endanger anyone by exposing them, if we choose that site?," asked board member Rick Tennant.
"For an 8-year old to be exposed to that, they're going to have to know how to run a backhoe," responded George Fenton, the last of the Fenton family to run the Fenton company when it closed around 2012. "It's just not an exposure risk for that particular area."
While the board voted by a 3-2 margin against the Fenton property, it also rejected setting a date for a hearing about the closure of Waverly Elementary School.
Administrators have discussed closing Waverly and moving its students to the new Williamstown Elementary, once it is built.
Board members and the public disagreed on whether the Waverly consolidation was part of the bond issue, which was approved by voters last November.
The Wood County Board of Education is working to make the most informed decision when it comes to choosing a location for Williamstown's new elementary school.
The board says it's a bit limited in its options, since they must follow strict guidelines in place by the West Virginia Department of Education.
For example, the building can only be two stories tall. The policy they must follow is about 300 pages long.
While the Fenton Glass property along Elizabeth Street has been the most-talked about option, board members are open to discussing other properties to ultimately make the best decision.
"I'm excited: to have up-to-date and maybe innovate areas in the building that we don't currently have access to. It's an opportunity for us to try out new things," said Mike Fling, Wood County Schools Assistant Superintendent.
The last school built in Wood County was Martin Elementary, which was 31 years ago in 1986.
The new elementary school will include grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
The Wood County Board of Education is hoping to move forward on its plans for a new Williamstown elementary school.
In November, Wood County voters approved a $41 million bond for the construction of this school. The bond, however, didn't specify the closure and consolidation of Waverly Elementary School into the new elementary.
To help clear up the confusion, language in the bond was revised. The district can now move forward with the projects. The sale of the bonds will not be affected whether Waverly ultimately closes or stays open.
Sean Francisco, who acts as legal council for Wood County Schools, said he still believes it was the intent of the board throughout the process to close Waverly Elementary School and that voters approved it as part of the bond.
Waverly Elementary School faces closure because a new Williamstown elementary school is in the works.
Residents of Waverly came out in droves to tell the board to vote 'no' and keep it open.
This is a discussion that's been going on for three months.The issue at hand during Tuesday's meeting is whether or not a school closure hearing needs to happen.
A lawyer was there to explain the process if one were to occur. Tuesday, concerned citizens packed the room to speak out against this.
"Why waste all this time putting together this lengthy closure hearing that is going to do nothing but cause grief and animosity our of the community and fear withing the Waverly community? Because it is the center of the community," said Fred Clark, one of the speakers during the public forum.
It's unclear just yet what will happen next with this situation.
Work on a $41 million Wood County Schools facilities project is halted for the time being.
During Wood County's Tuesday night Board of Education meeting, it was decided that before more plans could be made for the new Williamstown-area elementary school, the board of education must have a school closure hearing about Waverly Elementary School.
Once the board votes whether or not to close Waverly is when the other project will move forward. Board members say the earliest action will take place is most likely March.
"We had a lot of discussion from architects, engineers. We had some environmental testing that we had done. The board has decided at this point, there was quite the discussions about what bond call really said, and whether or not it is to close both Waverly and Wililamstown Elementary and do a consolidated school, so they want to resolved that issue," said Mike Fling, Assistant Superintendent of Wood County Schools.
A potential site for the new Williamstown-area elementary school is the Fenton Art Glass property in Williamstown.
The Wood County Board of Education voted Monday night on a bond levy for this November's ballot.
After multiple rounds of discussing options, the board settled on:
Replacing the Williamstown elementary, closing Waverly, Creating the Williamstown middle school, upgrading the Wood County Technical Center, and roof replacement at multiple facilities.
This option totals almost $53-million dollars.
The board learned that it would cost the average home owner $34.92 per year for each hundred-thousand dollars of assessment for the 15 year bond.
Mark Rhodes told the board while it will cost between $1200 to $1500 to add the bond to the ballot, it would cost $85-90,000 to do so in an off-year election instead.
More than 72 citizens packed the standing room only meeting Tuesday night.
The Williamstown elementary principal and Williamstown council persons urged the board that their community desperately needs a new school.
In other business, the board also heard presentations on the need for a strong fifth grade band program.