Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

September 3, 2013

Educational renaissance — Promise kept for McDowell youngsters

— The long-awaited resumption of construction on the new multi-million dollar Iaeger Elementary School project represents the fulfillment of a decade-old promise made to youngsters across McDowell County. It is, simply put, good news for students, families and community leaders across the greater Iaeger area who were willing to stand up and fight for this urgently needed project.

The new elementary school is the last facility 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. And when you stop and actually think about it, what we have witnessed in McDowell County Schools over the past 12 years is truly nothing short of an educational renaissance.

Archaic schools — some pre-dating World War II — were torn down. New modern, state-of-the-art facilities, were constructed. River View High School. Southside Elementary. Mount View Middle School. Bradshaw Elementary School. And even the new state-of-the-art modular unit serving the Anawalt community.

While it may seem hard to believe, the ongoing school construction effort in McDowell County was actually launched back in 2001. The decade-old project — made possible by those who had the vision to close aging, archaic schools and were willing to fight for brand-new educational facilities — will finally conclude with the completion of the new Iaeger Elementary School.

The existing Iaeger Elementary School is one of the oldest educational facilities still operational in the county. The old school has a number of structural issues, and was flooded both in 1977 and 2002. The sooner it is closed the better.

Site work began last December on the new Iaeger Elementary School, but the construction was stalled after there was a question about a permit. New drawings and permits were then submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for approval.

Concerned parents and community leaders were aggravated — and rightfully so — when the construction stopped without explanation. After all, town leaders had fought unsuccessfully just a couple of years ago to keep the old Iaeger High School open. It had to be demolished to make way for the new elementary school.

Ray Bailey, the former principal of Iaeger Elementary School and a member of the McDowell County Commission, says he and other concerned parents were prepared to picket outside of the old school if the FEMA permits were not approved.

Bailey and School Superintendent Nelson Spencer both received a verbal notification last week of the approval of the new bid permits. Spencer says construction at the site should resume soon. He is hopeful that the project construction can now get back on schedule.

We are too. It is critically important that this final project in the decade-old flood proofing plan be finished. Kids and parents in the Iaeger area were promised a new school, and they deserve a new school.

The promise made to the students of McDowell County more than a decade ago must be kept.

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