By Lyra Bordelon
During the Tuesday, March 9, meeting of the Greenbrier County Board of Education, Alderson Elementary School and the future 2022 budget were reviewed, with more answers on their progress expected in the future.
As has been previously discussed by the Alderson Town Council over the past several months, the Alderson Community Center could become the new Alderson Elementary School. According to Superintendent Jeff Bryant, the current school is not expected to be sustainable in the long term.
“Unfortunately, the Greenbrier River, on a frequent and unpredictable basis, has transformed into a raging beast and current that unleashes its furor, causing damage to property owners, business owners, and Alderson Elementary School,” Bryant said. “[This] results in displacing students from their teachers and classes, and families from their homes. The frequency of flooding has negatively impacted Alderson Elementary School infrastructure, which is evident to the naked eye, but more alarming to the eyes of experts.”
The current Alderson Elementary School building is in the floodplain, with the Pre-Kindergarten and cafeteria building, fields, and parking areas consistently flooding when rainfall is heavy. The annual cost of flood insurance is approximately $50,000, in addition to clean-up costs, lost instruction time, replacing equipment, and more.
The current building is also close to traffic with disconnected buildings, requiring travel outside to move between some locations on campus in extreme weather.
“I wanted you to see this sinkhole on our playground. It is getting much deeper and if you look at the pictures, it appears that we almost had another flood over the weekend. There is a corresponding sinkhole out on our football field, which seems to suggest that the two holes are connected. There is also a very strong sewage smell in our classrooms this morning. I am very concerned about the safety of our students, and the overall condition of our building here.”
The current building was donated to the town of Alderson in 1992 after the consolidation of five junior high schools into Eastern Greenbrier Junior High in 1992. The building then became the Alderson Community Center, with a new roof installed in 2019. The town would continue to have access to some community spaces in the school.
“They’ve done a wonderful job maintaining that facility,” Bryant said.
Bryant indicated a public forum was held, allowing residents of Alderson to have input on the project. In many recent Town Council meetings, several council members and Mayor Travis Copenhaver expressed support for the project.
“As the president of the board of directors of the Alderson Community Center, … I am in full support of turning over our building to be renovated for use as an elementary school,” said Susan Bowyer. “This will be a great asset to our community and will provide a safe, flood-free and updated facility for our children. The members of the board of directors are in full agreement that this is a wonderful project to return this building that was the high school and middle school to its original use.”
The project would cost approximately $11 million, with $3 million coming from local funds and a $8 million funding request to the SBA. The board will soon present the plan to the SBA, which will decide to approve the project and its finances. Bryant expressed confidence the plan would move forward, rather than needing to build an entire new elementary school.
In other business:
– The board began the budget process for the 2022 year. Chief School Business Official David McClure noted the county saw little fiscal growth over the past year, with pockets of growth and decline, saying “as far as the [property] assessments go, my take on it would be that we are flat for the year, which is probably not a bad thing considering how COVID and other factors impacted our community.” McClure also said Greenbrier County ranked around 32nd in West Virginia’s levy rates for education.