WILLIAMSTOWN - A committee tasked with determining the future of Williamstown Elementary School held its first meeting last week.
Sue Woodward, assistant superintendent of school services for Wood County Schools, said the Williamstown Elementary Facility Planning Committee met Sept. 13 in the schools library to begin the process of determining future plans for the school.
Williamstown Elementary is the second-oldest public school facility in Wood County and was cited in the district's 10-year comprehensive educational facilities plan (CEFP) as needing addressed. Officials and community members are trying to determine whether the building can be renovated or rebuilt, or whether a new school can be built to serve the community.
Both Woodward and school Principal Heather Mannix-Bretthauer said last week's meeting was a brainstorming session for the committee's 20-some members.
"We opened things up, trying to get thoughts flowing," Woodward said. "Part of the committee's charge is do we renovate, do we replace, do we stay here or do we move somewhere else. We haven't gotten to those topics straight-on yet, but we needed a started place, a way to get the conversation going."
The committee is represented by teachers, students, parents, business representatives and community leaders, said Mannix-Bretthauer.
"We have a nice cross-section of representatives so we can try and get different perspectives on how this should be handled," she said.
One of the biggest concerns for committee members was in ensuring the school be handicapped accessible.
"They want to make sure that a student, any student, can go to school in Williamstown from elementary through high school," Mannix-Bretthauer said. "That was a desire that very quickly came through."
As principal, Mannix-Bretthauer said many of her immediate concerns with the school involve a lack of space and a lack of electrical capacity, which puts students and classrooms at a technological disadvantage. Any new facility, she said, would have to address those needs.
Woodward said committee members also requested more information on how funding for construction might be handled, such as state School Building Authority requirements. Members also want to tour schools that have recently completed construction or renovation projects to see how those were handled, she said.
Mannix-Bretthauer said members also have requested city officials to speak with the group about projected demographics for the area. The school serves about 529 students, and Mannix-Bretthauer said that number has remained fairly consistent during her years at the school.
Woodward said the next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 11. Mannix-Bretthauer said the group wants to have at least two more meetings before Christmas.
"We don't want to put all of this work in and have nothing happen," Mannix-Bretthauer said. "The committee is really willing to put the time and effort into making this happen. Everyone is very committed to making this happen."