St. Marys High School project goes to bid

ST. MARYS -Despite approval from voters more than two years ago, work has yet to start on the new St. Marys High School.

Pleasants County Schools Superintendent Mike Wells said the project is getting closer to reality. Money for the multimillion project was approved in 2010 when voters approved a levy.

The project went out to bid last week, with advertisements running in the newspaper. Wells said officials are proposing a preconstruction meeting for Feb. 19 and opening bids March 5.

Heather Straight, president of the Pleasants County Board of Education, said officials expect work to begin soon.

“We will have a groundbreaking,” she said. “We should see dirt moving in the next few months.”

The $18.05 million school bond will be combined with more than $12.9 million from the West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) to fund the building of a new St. Marys High School adjacent to the Mid-Ohio Valley Technical Institute, an athletics facility and the demolition of the current high school.

The estimated cost of the new high school is almost $23.5 million, with another $1 million to tear down the current high school.

The 2010 school levy also included $2.5 million for renovations to Belmont Elementary, including handicap accessible restrooms, paving the parking lot, a new HVAC system, electrical upgrade, and a road providing entry to the school from the rear of the building.

Wells said renovation at Belmont is “off and running” and officials are hoping it will be completed by the end of the summer.

However, progress on the new high school has been slow. Wells said part of the hold up had to do with untangling ownership of the land behind the technical center property, where the school’s athletic complex is slated to be built. The $4 million athletics facility, complete with a softball and baseball field, gymnasium, tennis courts, football field and regulation-sized track, would be located on the campus of the new St. Marys High School.

Straight said the process is mandated by the SBA.

“There is a step-by-step. And after the first couple of steps you have to resubmit,” she said. “We also ran into come unforeseen circumstances with the ownership of the property behind the PRT.”

Wells said officials also had to go through a number of state entities, including the SBA.

“When you have different entities involved it takes a little more time,” he said.

Officials initially scheduled the new school to be open to start the 2014-2015 school year. Wells said the rescheduled plan is to open the school to students at the start of 2015.

“With the bumps in the road, there is no way we can be in by the fall of 2014,” he said. “It will be the same graduating class we anticipated.”