By Sarah Plummer
The excitement was electric Friday as a continuous stream of community members toured the new Marsh Fork Elementary School.
David Price, Raleigh County assistant superintendent, arrived more than an hour before the open house began to find around 100 grandparents, parents and students already waiting to see the new two-story structure.
“I have never seen a community so excited about a school opening,” added Tracie Wood, interim principal at the elementary.
For many, with excitement, came tears.
Superintendent Jim Brown explained that many teachers who visited the new school before Christmas break were overwhelmed.
“Many teachers cried tears of joy and some wished their own parents were still alive to see this school come to fruition,” he said.
For those with a long family history down Coal River Road, the new school brings back something the community had lost — the Marsh Fork High School Bulldogs.
Dennis Dye, physical education teacher, explained, “You don’t understand how much pride the community has until you see what having the Bulldog mascot and the old school colors means to them. Grown men have come into this gym and cried.”
In addition to the hints of Bulldog colors, other vestiges of the community’s proud alma mater are present, like a framed Marsh Fork letterman sweater.
After the first excited whispers and gasps lulled, those touring the new school pointed out some of its many benefits.
Robert and Anna Skaggs, of Dry Creek, both graduates of Marsh Fork High School, have five grandchildren who will attend the school.
“It is good to see locks on the doors so no one can barge in. The security is great,” they said.
Each classroom door locks from the inside and can only be entered using a key code.
Joyce Gunnoe, of Dry Creek, described the new facility as “absolutely awesome.”
She said the brightness of the school was really appealing and she was impressed that younger grades have their own bathroom inside their classrooms.
Kay Kidd, of Arnett, teaches Sunday school to many of the kids who will attend the new school.
“I love the gym, the classroom, the colors. It is modern and beautiful. There is not a thing I don’t like about it,” she said.
Parent Angela Lucas said the new school is vastly different from the old one.
“I’m so glad we are away from the slurry pond and the coal compound. I worried about the slurry pond each time it rained,” she shared.
Donna Crawford, of Stickney, said the slurry pond over the old school was also something that worried her.
She said she was glad her daughter, now in the fifth grade, would be able to be in the new school before moving to Trap Hill Middle.
Crawford said she visited Friday mainly to say a prayer for the teachers and students before they start classes in the new facility Monday.
Other things visitors noted Friday were the basketball goals in the gymnasium, which can adjust between 8 and 10 feet; smartboards in each classroom; classroom storage space; computer labs; and the recessed floor in the cafeteria, which allows cooks to be nearly eye-level with students as they pass through the line.
“This school is one other counties across the state will look to for ideas. It is completely state of the art,” said Wood.
Brown added that while the facility itself is a game changer for student achievement, it will still be up to the expertise of the teachers to move students forward.
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