Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


March 18, 2014

Ceres Elementary: Project merits SBA funding

— — When members of the state School Building Authority convene today in Charleston, we would urge them to give full funding consideration to the proposed Ceres Elementary School replacement project for Mercer County.

Members of the Mercer County Board of Education are scheduled to make a presentation — and a state funding pitch — before the SBA this afternoon. The school board is specifically seeking $9 million in SBA dollars for the project. The board of education will contribute another $2 million in local funding to complete the estimated $11 million price tag for the project.

The new school is urgently needed. The existing Ceres Elementary is riddled with problems — the biggest of which is its location. The existing school is simply too close to a heavily traveled roadway. And this presents obvious safety concerns for small children enrolled at the school. Due to the close proximity of the structure to the adjoining roadway, students — in order to gain access to the playground — must currently walk across the school parking lot, according to Mercer County School Superintendent Dr. Deborah Akers. And that in itself also presents serious safety concerns.

Adding to the problems is the fact that the existing school has been expanded several times. And it’s oldest section is 88 years old. There’s also no gymnasium or indoor physical education center at the existing facility. Also complicating matters is the fact that the school has two portable classrooms — meaning students must once again exit the portable classrooms to re-enter the main facility for lunch or other functions.

Akers says a proposed site near the existing structure has been found for the new school. The board also recently voted to proceed with an option to purchase the 36-acre site in Green Valley. However, the option is contingent upon the county receiving SBA funds for the project.

“It can’t be more than a minute from the current Ceres School,” board president Greg Prudich said last week of the proposed new site. “I think if you had a really good arm, you could throw a rock from Ceres School to the corner of the new property.”

The replacement of the existing Ceres Elementary is a priority project for Mercer County. We would urge the SBA to fund this application for a number of reasons, including student safety, structural issues and the age of the existing structure.

SBA officials are scheduled to make their funding decisions by April 28. We would strongly urge the authority to green-light this long-awaited Ceres Elementary project.

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