The Virginia Board of Education moved Thursday to open a second application period for School Construction Assistance Program funding. About $85 million is still available for school divisions with plans for construction or renovation projects.
In May, the board approved 40 grants for projects in 28 school divisions. Those awards used about 80% of the $450 million allocated by the General Assembly in 2022 for the program.
The state received 119 applications for the grants this spring. Each was graded on a 100-point scale based on 11 criteria including building age and economic need.
Projects needed a minimum score of 65 to receive a grant for 10%, 20% or 30% of the project cost.
A second application period means schools that did not submit projects have another chance to do so. It also means that projects that didn’t meet the funding threshold can reapply.
The Department of Education has already completed a 30-day period to review scoring data at the request of school divisions. Department staff can offer guidance to divisions interested in submitting new or revised applications.
The state education board discussed extending grants to spring applicants that scored in the 60-64 range. But Kent Dickey, deputy superintendent of budget, finance and operations, told the board that keeping the threshold at 65 points would ensure that the projects most in need of state support get an opportunity to access the remaining funds.
Roanoke City Public Schools plans to submit revised applications for projects that didn’t get awards in May.
The division received awards for three of five projects it submitted. It won a $10 million grant toward constructing a new Preston Park Elementary School and a $780,000 grant to replace the heating and cooling system at Lincoln Terrace Elementary School. A third grant will provide $7.35 million toward the renovation of a building adjacent to William Fleming High School that will soon become the Charles W. Day Technical Education Center. That facility will open in early 2024.
Roanoke had also requested money for the Roanoke Academy for Math and Science and John P. Fishwick Middle School, both of which are due for new roofs.
Chris Perkins, chief operating officer at Roanoke City Public Schools, explained that projects that didn’t get state funding will still be completed. They’ll be prioritized based on the division’s ongoing capital improvement plan, which stresses equity throughout the division.
Patrick County Public Schools applied for about $870,000 for several renovation projects, including updating high school locker rooms from the 1970s, but got no funding when grants were announced in May.
The division requested a review by the state, which confirmed that Patrick County did not meet the scoring threshold. Superintendent Jason Wood said the division’s calculations of building age, which can be complex due to additions and renovations done over time, may have been a factor.
Wood said Patrick County will reexamine its previous applications and resubmit for similar projects. It will also review its capital improvement projects list to determine whether any other renovation needs might qualify. “We’re hopeful,” Wood said. “Because we definitely need support.”
In the meantime, the school board voted on July 20 to move forward with the locker room renovation project.
The General Assembly approved the creation of the $450 million School Construction Assistance Program in 2022 as part of a $1.3 billion effort to improve school infrastructure.
That funding came in response to a 2021 Commission on School Construction report that found that more than half of all school buildings in the state were more than 50 years old.
The oldest, with a median age of 58 years, were in Southwest and Southside.