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New school construction grant will roll out in early 2023

Virginia Middle School
Bristol Virginia Public Schools
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Virginia Middle School in Bristol was built in 1916.

A new state-run grant for school construction looks set to get rolling in early 2023.

Localities will be able to apply for state money to help build, renovate, or update school buildings. The General Assembly has allocated about half a billion dollars for the new competitive grants.

This week, Virginia Department of Education’s Kent Dickey told members of the Commission on School Construction and Modernization they should be ready to start accepting applications sometime in January.

“So really the emphasis here is on new and emerging projects in high need localities that need state support,” Dickey said, adding that they’ve already received a lot of interest and questions from superintendents. “Phone calls, emails, contacts at meetings.”

Ken Nicely superintendent of Roanoke County Public Schools says his district is ready to apply.

“School divisions like ourselves have been eager and have a huge level of high interest to pursue those,” Nicely told members of the commission. “We’ve been eager since summer to know what the criteria is going to be and to be able to hit that send button. We’re ready to hit the send button.”

Unfortunately demand is likely to outstrip supply. According to the commission's work, over half of Virginia’s school buildings are at least a century old. And replacement costs could exceed 25 billion dollars.

Members of the commission are likely to press for more money in the competitive grant program during the next budget cycle.

“It’s a fairly good economic condition right now to put some more money in so that we can help more school divisions,” said Democratic Delegate Jeff Bourne.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is Radio IQ's Richmond reporter and bureau chief.