The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 29, 2010

Marsh Fork Elementary starting to take shape

By Sarah Plummer
Register-Herald Reporter

— The new Marsh Fork Elementary school, now in its design development phase, is beginning to take form as logistics are being worked through. At Tuesday’s Raleigh County Board of Education meeting, architect Greg Williamson presented digital drawings and renderings that allowed those present to get the first tangible glimpse at how the new structure may look.

The building is finally taking shape after years of work and dedication by the community, the Board, the School Building Authority and philanthropists. Citizens first expressed their concern about the school’s proximity to a Massey coal silo and its position down hill from a coal waste pond in 2007.

By 2009, the board had submitted a request to the School Building Authority for a new school and were searching for funding locally and nationwide.

After purchasing 50 acres of Cantley family property for $80,000 in Rock Creek off Route 3, the building project quickly gained momentum.

Williamson and his architect intern Andrew Crawford, from Williamson Shriver Gandee Architects of Charleston, have been working with a variety of committees to ensure the facility will meet the needs of the students, teachers, administrators, School Building Authority and the community, he said.

Williamson announced that the schematic design was submitted to the School Building Authority on Nov. 19 and has been approved. The architect will now begin the design development phase.

“We have established the parameters of the building’s design, including submitting questionnaire to the school and teachers to incorporate furnishings and use into the educational specification. The educational plan has been submitted and the technology plan will be submitted soon,” he said.

What was originally going to be a one story structure, he explained, will now be two stories to ensure room for growth over the next 50 years. The second story will be over the academic wing.

Pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade will be on the first floor with storage rooms and toilets contained within each classroom. There will also be a self-contained special education section on the first floor according to the current plan.

Two classrooms each for second through fifth grades will be on the second floor alongside a Title-1 room and a conference room that might be used for speech class during the day, he suggested.

Williamson reported that the School Building Authority will only finance a 3,100 square foot gymnasium, Board President Richard Snuffer expressed that the board “wants to provide a gym the size of Fairdale’s and will negotiate to make up the difference.”

The architect pointed out that the new school will have a “controlled vestibule entrance similar to what is in Fairdale now. When visitors enter they are forced, because of locked doors, to enter through the office to be processed.”

Another point of interest as the new building plans become solidified, is the possibility that a community clinic might be housed in the same facility if funds become available. Three exam rooms, in addition to the student clinic, would allow the public to come and go through a private exterior entrance, he explained. If the community clinic become a reality, the students and public would not mix, and a secure door would prevent visitors from the clinic from entering the school without a password or card access.

Williamson describes the new facility as “a very comfortable plan, 15 feet above the existing road elevation...with sloped roofs.” Snuffer pointed out that sloped roofs are another aspect of the plan that the School Building Authority will not fund, but the board finds imperative to the area’s climate.

The architect suggests that the exterior be brick.

The next milestone in the design/construction phase of the new Marsh Fork Elementary will be the submission of the design development plan to the School Building Authority on Jan. 19. Williamson reports that there is still “a lot of work to do between now and then” and that date may not be met because of delays changing the structure from a one to two story building.

“May 19 is the date for us to submit phase three, the building construction document, and I have no doubt that we can make that in plenty of time and we expect building occupancy by fall 2012,” he said.

Williamson plans on creating a separate site preparation package that will be bid on in advance of the building package. “We want to bid it out as early as February so that, SBA willing, when the weather breaks in March or April we will have contractors ready to work.”

Snuffer pointed out that although the board will not pursue Leed Certification due to the extra cost, “we are dedicated to making this a first class facility and will be doing many things to cut energy use.”

“There will be daylighting, motion occupancy and HVAC features that I think will be very energy conscious in their design,” added Williamson.

Snuffer, who lives in the March Fork district, shared that “I was stopped by three teachers at Marsh Fork and they are tickled to death with the architectural firm. They are happy with the progress.”