Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

July 23, 2013

School construction

Modern facilities vital to learning

— — In just a few short weeks, school children will be returning to classrooms across the region. And, as always, it is critical for those school facilities to be in the best shape possible to ensure a positive learning environment for the students.

That’s why we continue to monitor school construction projects in the region. First off is the ongoing work on the Oakvale School project in Mercer County. Construction began last year on the project that involves the demolition of parts of an old high school to make way for a new elementary school.

School officials hope to complete the new school by January 2014. Construction is currently on schedule. Several sections of the old facility, which was once a high school, were demolished in 2012 to make way for the new pre-kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school. Classes have been conducted in the newer parts of the school while the construction project continues. A mobile kitchen unit also is still being used to serve the school until the construction is complete. The new school section now being built will include a cafeteria, media center, classrooms and offices. It will also be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

However, a second school construction project has fallen behind schedule. Site work began last December on the new Iaeger Elementary School in McDowell County, but the construction has since been placed on hold due to questions over a permit. New drawings and permits have been submitted to FEMA for approval in hopes of getting the project back on track, according to School Superintendent Nelson Spencer.

“There was a question with those drawings, and those drawings have been sent back to FEMA to see if we can obtain a permit,” Spencer said last week. “The permit deals with having fill in the flood way.”

The new elementary school is the last project to be funded as part of a decade-old flood proofing agreement in McDowell County launched in conjunction with the state Board of Education, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state School Building Authority.

Also in McDowell County, demolition is underway on the old Anawalt Elementary School facility, a structure opened for students in the early 1920s.

The state fire marshal ordered the archaic building closed in July 2012 for health and safety reasons. Students in Anawalt are currently attending school in a state-of-the-art modular building located on the lower parking lot area of the school grounds.

Once the old school is torn down, the area will be used as a larger playground. Officials say the modular classrooms will be used in Anawalt until the school system can come up with an alternative school construction plan for the old Adkin’s District area of McDowell County.

With hope the new playground — and the new playground equipment currently being sought by Sen. Bill Cole, R-Mercer — can be up and running in Anawalt before the kids arrive next month. We also hope that construction can resume sooner rather than later on the new Iaeger Elementary School. It is absolutely critical that this new school — the last of the original flood-proofing projects in McDowell County — be completed.

In Mercer County, we are pleased to hear that the new Oakvale School project is progressing on schedule. Modern school facilities and environments that are conducive to learning are vital if children are to succeed in their studies.

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