Williamstown steering committee to meet with Wood BOE

PARKERSBURG – Officials laying the groundwork for a new elementary school in Williamstown will meet with the board of education next week to begin committee work.

Sue Woodward, assistant superintendent of Wood County Schools, said the Williamstown Elementary New School Steering Committee will meet with the board next week. The newly formed committee will provide board members an update and site discussion.

Woodward said the first presentation as a committee is to tell board members a committee has been formed and will be meeting with architects and engineers and the state School Building Authority (SBA).

“They want the board to know they are active and scheduling meetings,” Woodward said. “This is their kickoff.”

A new Williamstown Elementary is the top priority in the county’s comprehensive education facilities plan. Woodward said the building is more than 100 years old and holds classrooms in the basement.

Emergency repairs have been done on the roof, and transmitting enough electricity through the facility to run modern equipment is a hurdle.

The building is not handicapped accessible. Handicapped students who reside in Williamstown have to attend (elementary) school elsewhere.

Costs to build an elementary school would run about $10 million.

The first step in a new school is identifying a suitable building site.

“You don’t draw a blueprint of the house until you see the grade of the land,” Woodward said.

A new elementary school is going to require 8-10 acres of land. Williamstown Elementary sits on three acres.

Woodward said there is a lot of property around Williamstown, not necessarily inside city limits.

“Is there land in the city someone would be willing to sell?” she asked. “Land that has not been exposed to hazardous material or located under high-tension power lines and is above the floodplain.

“The SBA has a lot of restrictions.”

She said officials will have to consider access to allow for a large-scale movement of children and utility availability.

Officials can seek a waiver to keep the school in town, but they must show its value, she said.

Woodward said the steering committee, which includes board president Tim Yeater, seeks to be transparent with the community. It is offering to speak to community groups.

“They plan on offering themselves to Rotary clubs, church groups and senior groups for the long-term benefit of Williamstown Elementary.”