Article by: Jim Bissett, The Dominion Post
MORGANTOWN — Call it the equivalent of advancing to a new grade in a bigger school.
In coming months, administrators at the central office of Monongalia County’s school district on South High Street will begin packing for a move to Sabraton.
The county Board of Education has voted to proceed with the purchase of the former MedExpress administrative office building at 1751 Earl L. Core Road – which will serve as the district’s new headquarters.
Board member Ron Lytle, also a local contractor, recused himself from that vote during Tuesday’s meeting, saying his firm has done previous work for companies associated with past owners of the building.
Fellow member Sara Anderson was absent from the meeting.
Meanwhile, Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said the $6.9 million price tag will be stretched across a five-year payment plan.
For decades, the district has done its work at 13 S. High St., in a blockish, multistory building with a sloping parking lot.
Add that to the building’s lattice work of stairwells and sometimes-tight hallways, Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said, and you have a structure making barely adequate marks with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In contrast, the Sabraton building is a single-story affair, with ample parking in a level lot.
Parking was big consideration, Campbell said.
“The central office should be a location where parents can make their connection with the school district as a whole,” he said.
“I’ve got two visitor’s spaces,” he said. “Parents shouldn’t have to park somewhere else and walk a block to get here.”
Space was the biggest consideration, the superintendent said.
The South High address has around 15,000 square feet, he said, with many administrative services farmed out to other facilities in Westover and Suncrest, out of architectural necessity.
Sabraton clocks in a 31,000 square feet, he reported.
Planning to The Plan
The district’s Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan for 2020-30 – call it an infrastructure owner’s manual – mapped out a new administrative building over the decade, with a projected construction cost of $15 million.
“The Sabraton location just made sense,” he said.
Amanda Washington, who directs facilities management services for the district, agreed.
While the Sabraton building isn’t 100% move-in ready, she said, it’s pretty close.
The building went together in 1993 as a Food Lion grocery store, she said.
It was extensively renovated in 2008 to house the MedExpress administrative offices, she said.
While it has sat vacant for the past couple of years after MedExpress relocated its business operations, the structure has still been regularly maintained.
Restrooms are ADA-compliant, she said. The building has a sprinkler system and is already wired for high-tech data services.
In the early 1900s, the tract of land it occupies was home to a glass plant, she said.
Washington said water and soil samples taken at the site show it to be in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards.
The district is purchasing the building from its current owner, Bancroft 731 Market LLC, an Idaho firm specializing in commercial properties.
The superintendent is excited for the deal.
“This really a strong solution, we believe, to be able to consolidate administratively under one roof,” he said.
“We think it’s going to make us tremendously efficient. It’s a real opportunity.”