The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 25, 2007

Ground broken for new elementary school

By Michelle James

Decked out in yellow hard hats and red T-shirts reading, “Our Dream Comes True,” Fairdale Elementary students stood ready to “break ground” for their new school Thursday morning.

Although rain forced the students’ celebration — complete with performances by the school choir and pre-K class — indoors, the spirit and excitement of Fairdale faculty and staff, parents, community members and county school officials were not dampened as the official ceremony continued outdoors.

“I may be a little wet and the hair may not be just right, but I’m glad I’m here and I know that you have waited a long, long time for this,” Raleigh County Schools Superintendent Charlotte Hutchens told the crowd. “In spite of the rain, it’s a good day. It’s a good day for Fairdale Elementary and it’s a good day for the Fairdale community.”

The $8.7 million facility will be constructed behind the existing school, which opened in 1950.

With additions, portable buildings, no air conditioning and a coal-fired furnace, assistant superintendent Janet Lilly said, the existing school is “probably the most outdated” in the county.

“The physical facility is just really outdated, but the upside is that we have really good staff here and wonderful kids and a wonderful community,” she said. “They deserve a new facility.”

Although site preparation has not begun, architect Dan Snead said, “weather permitting,” work could begin in early 2008 and a projected completion date of summer 2009 is very “doable and probable.”

Fairdale teacher and faculty senate chair Theresa Godbey said she and several other teachers have arranged their plans around that projected completion date.

“The staff is really excited about the new school,” she said. “Several of us are right now at the borderline on retirement, but we’re going to hold off until we get this new school to see what it’s like in a new building.”

The design of the school calls for a metal, pitched roof as opposed to the flat roofs of all other county schools. Snead says classrooms for younger students will be located on a different side of the building from those for older students.

Unlike the existing school, the new facility will have a separate gym and cafeteria. Also included in the new building will be a library and a state-of-the-art computer lab.

Snead says he does not believe the new school will disappoint. He and county officials say the Fairdale community will have not only a state-of-the-art facility, but the safest building possible.

Safety was a major consideration in the design of the building, Snead said, and closed-circuit security cameras will be located both inside and outside. Although the school will have several exits, it will have just one entrance, and Snead said visitors will enter a closed corridor and must be buzzed into the main area of the school.

“It will be extremely safe,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to make safe schools for the children.”

Board members Judi Almond, Patricia Waddell and Rick Snuffer thanked the community for their support and patience.

Snuffer, who has a close connection to the school, said the project holds a special place in his heart.

“In 1961, I attended the ‘new’ Fairdale Elementary School,” he said. “... Now I’ve had my children come through here and my grandchildren will come through here and they’ll get to attend the ‘new’ Fairdale Elementary School.

“It’s going to be one of the most beautiful schools I think you’ve seen.”

— E-mail: mjames@register-herald.com