Tuesday, April 13, 2010

WAN Meeting Scheduled

A Woodburn Association of Neighbors meeting will be held April 19th at 7:00 PM in the Woodburn Elementary multipurpose/ gym.

Letter to BOE and meeting tonight

The following is a copy of a letter to be delivered to the Monongalia County BOE at tonights meeting. Anyone interested in the future of Woodburn School should attend tonights meeting. There is a tour of Mountaineer Middle at 6:00 p.m. and then the regular business meeting at 7:00 p.m. at the administrative board office on S. High Street.

The Monongalia County Board of Education
13 South High Street
Morgantown, WV 26501

Dear Dr. Devono and members of the Board of Education,

On Monday, April 12, 2010, three members of the Woodburn Association of Neighbors, Susan Eason, Tom Shamberger and Chris Haddox, met with Dr. Mark Manchin of the WV School Building Authority (SBA). The purpose of the visit was to gain a better understanding of the SBA's role in working with county Boards of Education that are seeking funding for school projects. More specifically, it was to learn what influence the SBA holds over local Boards when they are crafting their school projects for submission for SBA consideration.

Over the course of the ninety minute discussion, several things emerged that countered what we had been led to believe by different members of our local Board at various meetings around the proposed consolidation of Woodburn and Easton Elementary Schools. First, Dr. Manchin informed us that the seven-acre site guideline is just that--a guideline. He went over the process by which Boards can request waivers to site size guidelines, pointing out that the request can be made by a simple letter to the SBA and that the SBA has sole discretion whether to grant the wavier. There is no convoluted process involving the WV Board of Education or any other entity, as both you and architect Mr. Shriver supposed. Dr. Manchin pointed to examples where waivers have been granted.

When asked about the site visit Dr. Manchin made to the Woodburn site, he candidly admitted he felt it was a tough site, but allowed that had the Board wished to show how it could develop a project on the existing site of 4 acres, a waiver could have been within the realm of possibility. This is a very different story than you, specifically Board President Walker, shared with us when the message was communicated that Dr. Manchin would not support a school on the current Woodburn site as it did not meet the seven acre.

Second, when asked about the Boards message that if it did not submit a plan in this round of funding, there would be a high chance of missing an opportunity as next year's SBA budget would be significantly lower, Dr. Manchin indicated that yes, this years funding is about as sure a thing as there is. However, there is projected to be another $60-$70 million available in next years round and as the SBA wants very much to do a showcase project in Morgantown, and as very few Boards in West Virginia have the capacity to pull off such a project, the chances of funding would be very high next year as well.

When presented with our perception that the SBA's understanding of sustainable design and development is centered on one small component of that process, the building itself, Dr. Manchin acknowledged this was the case. He did say that the SBA's vision is broadening and the current vision in no way precludes Boards from bringing forth cutting edge proposals for consideration. In fact, the SBA grasps the long term and far reaching impacts of school siting decisions on the larger community and believes in community based school approaches as identified by numerous entities such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Council for Educational Facility Planners International. We were left with the distinct impression that a proposal from this Board that was crafted in coordination with the City of Morgantown Comprehensive Plan, the City of Morgantown Housing Study, the City of Morgantown Downtown Strategic Plan, and the MPO/DOH plans for addressing the Mileground traffic quagmire would be welcomed. Such a plan could put both this Board and the SBA firmly on the path to a cutting edge sustainable design worthy of national exposure. As it stands now, a high performance building on a Greenfield site with no walkability will fall way short of that goal.

As Dr. Manchin pointed out multiple times, it is very late in this ballgame to be addressing the issues we raised. In his words, "it would have been helpful to have this discussion several months ago." In initial meetings between Board members Statler and Kelly and our Woodburn representatives, we were asked to please not contact Dr. Manchin directly, but to let Dr. Devono communication with him so as to not muddy the waters and we honored that request. In hindsight, there was too much at stake to not have our own dialogue with Dr. Manchin.

In closing we request that the Board take the current proposal off the table, request a planning grant from the SBA and spend the next six months preparing a new proposal for a school that is based in an existing residential community, is pedestrian accessible and that is conceived in coordination with the aforementioned planning processes. This proposal can be submitted to the November 2010 funding round.


Susan Eason
Tom Shamberger
Chris Haddox