By Sarah Plummer
Marsh Fork Elementary School students’ first day back was a hot topic Tuesday at the Raleigh County Board of Education meeting.
John Canterbury, a teacher at Marsh Fork, spoke to the board about how much the new school means to the Coal River Valley community.
Admittedly tearing up as he spoke, he said three of his students sat in their new classroom and cried Monday.
“We have never seen anything like this, you know. The last school that was built in the Marsh Fork District was Marsh Fork High School in 1945,” he shared.
“When our high school closed, it ripped the heart out of our community. Now, with the help of some older people, we are trying to get that spirit back — a spirit to learn,” he continued. “Because you have reinvested in our community people are starting to get that spirit again.”
Board President Richard Snuffer said he met the buses at the school on Monday and asked one of the young girls if she liked her new school.
Snuffer said she replied, ‘I love it. Can I come back tomorrow?’
“A lot of the young kids thought they were just visiting. They could not believe they got to stay,” he said.
“The school is not just a star for Raleigh County, it is a star for West Virginia. We wish we had more schools like this in the county and hopefully we will. Everyone deserves a school like this,” Snuffer added.
On a less joyful note, the board acknowledged that the School Building Authority notified them the county will not be receiving state funds for an upgrade at Independence Middle.
The project proposed much needed upgrades to the electrical system so that it can sustain an HVAC upgrade.
The School Building Authority noted that while the project was “very worthwhile,” there were a limited amount of funds and many project submissions for funding.
Superintendent Jim Brown said the county will be looking for other avenues to fund the project.
Student representative and Independence High School senior Jessica Black told the board some of the activities her school has been involved with over the last two months.
She said the school participated in College Application Night where students met with representatives from colleges and universities statewide and many application fees were waived for students.
The school also put together a total of 70 food baskets for the holidays to feed area families with the help of local churches and the Walmart Foundation.
Independence High School has also formed a new archery team.
Jessica said around 20 students are getting involved and she is glad the team is drawing in many students who have not previously been involved in extra curricular activities.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the board formally recognized Beckley and Crescent Elementary for being named West Virginia Title 1 Distinguished Schools for 2012. There were only 12 schools chosen out of the state’s nearly 400 elementary schools.
Crescent has also been recognized as a National Title 1 Distinguished School.
Board vice president Larry Ford reported that he has finished delivering dictionaries to each third-grader in Raleigh County. Dictionaries were donated by the Beckley Rotary Club.
The Raleigh County Board of Education will next meet at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Central Office on Adair Street, Beckley.
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