By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Crews will soon begin the first steps in the construction of the long-planned Iaeger Elementary School, a building project 12 years in the making.
The new elementary school was first proposed in 2000 as part of a countywide flood-proofing plan, and will be located on the site of the former Iaeger High School building, which was demolished in 2010.
McDowell County School Superintendent Nelson Spencer said a bid has been awarded to begin preparing the site for the new elementary school, and soon another bid will be awarded for construction of the Iaeger Elementary School building.
“With Iaeger Elementary there is a site preparation bid that has been awarded and the company receiving that bid is in the process of getting their paperwork finished to start the groundbreaking in the near future,” Spencer said. “There will be a couple of bids for the site preparation, which must be completed before we can do the construction of the school. We are hoping to see site prep begin any day now.”
Spencer said part of the preparation for the school’s construction involves bringing the construction site out of the floodplain.
“With preparing the site, one part of the mountain in front of the school has to be removed and put on the school site to make the school site level,” Spencer said. “That will raise it out of the flood plain by raising the ground in that area about a foot. It is in the general location of the old high school.”
When the site for the school is finished Spencer said groundbreaking on the actual building will commence.
“We are hoping to start construction in early spring,” Spencer said. “The school building authority has the plan. This is being done through money obtained from the School Building Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The school system itself doesn’t have much money in this project. It was started several years ago when many of the schools in the area were flooded, and this is the last school in that project.”
Spencer said the new Iaeger Elementary will be the last of the four new county schools financed through a partnership between the McDowell County Board of Education, West Virginia Board of Education and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a multi-million dollar flood-proofing plan for the county. The partnership also financed the construction of River View High School, Bradshaw Elementary and the Southview Elementary and Middle School.
If everything moves smoothly, Spencer said the school system is hoping to open the doors of the new Iaeger Elementary in the fall of 2014.
“We will write in the contract the closest estimated date of completion of construction, but we won’t know when the building will be completed or when we can move in until the day that contract is signed,” he said. “It is usually a year-and-a-half or two-year process to construct a brand new school. Everything in this building will be absolutely brand new. We are thinking the school will be ready sometime in 2014, and we hope we can move in by the fall of 2014 if everything goes according to plan.”
Spencer said Iaeger residents are very excited about the project.
“It’s been a long time coming to have this school,” he said. “Just from conversations I have had with community members, they are very excited about this new school. It is something they have wanted for quite a while.”
The McDowell County School Board has been looking into the possibility of erecting a consolidated elementary school combining Anawalt, Fall River and Welch elementary schools, but Spencer said the project was not awarded funding by the SBA. Spencer said school board members are in the process of determining whether or not they want to move forward with the consolidated school project.
“What happened with that, my predecessor Mr. (Jim) Brown submitted a proposal to the School Building Authority for that consolidation last spring,” Spencer said. “That proposal was turned down and no funding was allocated. At this point, the school board is still looking and considering to see if we should propose that option again or if we could go back to the drawing board to look at other options.”