Brushfork, Bluewell Elementary

These photos show Brushfork Elementary and Bluewell Elementary schools, two facilities the Mercer County Board of Education is seeking to close and replace due to their age and ‘health and safety deficiencies.’

PRINCETON — Two votes scheduled for the Mercer County Board of Education’s Jan. 14 meeting could move the school system closer to replacing two aging elementary schools with a new facility.

The board of education will first vote about whether to close Bluewell Elementary School, then vote again about whether to close Brushfork Elementary School, according to the Jan. 14 agenda.

In November 2019, Superintendent Dr. Deborah Akers gave a presentation before the West Virginia School Building Authority to request $11.5 million for a new school which would replace the Bluewell and Brushfork facilities. Mercer County Schools would provide a $3 million local match.

During her presentation, Akers told SBA officials that both schools are “aging, antiquated buildings that have many health and safety deficiencies.”

However, Mercer County School learned in December 2019 that the state SBA was awarding a total $27.7 million to school systems in Fayette, Harrison and Marion Counties. The largest amount, $20 million, was presented to Fayette County for constructing a new Meadow Bridge Pre-K –12 school.

Akers said Friday that the county school system was continuing its quest for finance a new facility for the Bluewell and Brushfork areas’ students. Proceeding with votes to close the two existing schools is a step toward applying to the state SBA again for the necessary money.

“Part of the process that makes us have a better position to receive funding is to complete the closure hearings at the local level,” Akers stated. “So we are going to reapply for money next year, but there is also a chance that there will be some additional money this year for buildings. So we are going through the closure process in case additional funds become available.”

Akers said the earliest any additional SBA funds could become available is this spring.

“If any funds become available this spring, the SBA indicated they would consider the projects already there that haven’t been funded. But we want to have our project in the best position possible if that comes about,” she stated. “If that doesn’t come about we would reapply next September (with the SBA).”

The Mercer County Board of Education’s Jan. 14 meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Seminar Center at the Mercer County Technical Education Center along 1397 Stafford Drive in Princeton.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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