PETERSTOWN — After an unexpected delay caused by frigid temperatures in Texas last winter, the new Peterstown School complex is getting back on track and will be ready to open in August 2022.
Ground was broken on the complex, which is located at Rt. 12 north of Peterstown, in June 2020 with guest speaker West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Cayton Burch calling the site a “gorgeous, gorgeous place for a new school.”
The new $18 million school, which will replace the dilapidated Peterstown middle and elementary schools in the Town of Peterstown, will have about 750 students and was initially expected to be finished by August 2021 or possibly by the end of this year.
However, Monroe County School Board President Keith Wickline said a major delay resulted after a hard freeze in Texas last winter shut down an insulation company that supplied the school, and that situation was exacerbated by the pandemic and supply chain issues.
“We could not get the insulation we needed to finish the middle school wing,” Wickline said, adding that because of the design of the facility it is a particular type of insulation that cannot be replaced and it must be installed before the wiring and HVAC work can be completed.
Wickline said when it does open in August, everything will be completely finished and ready.
Monroe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joetta Basile said Tuesday during a tour of the new school the insulation is scheduled to arrive in January so work can go full steam ahead.
The 92,000-sq.-ft. school has two separate wings, one for pre-K through fourth grade and the other for fifth though eighth grades, but under the same roof.
Basile said the elementary wing has two sections, one for Pre-k, kindergarten and first grade, and the other for second through fourth grades.
A long central hallway between the two wings includes a shared cafeteria and two gyms, a standard size gym for the middle school and a smaller one for elementary students.
The cafeteria, with a large kitchen and serving area, also has a stage that can be used as an auditorium, and the school includes a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) lab room for elementary students and art and band rooms for the middle school.
“There has been a big push for STEM and we requested one,” Basile said of the lab. “The goal is to start them off young and, if they are interested, to see that growth through middle and high school.”
Classrooms are spacious and include lockers, with “cubbies” for the younger students.
The “accent” walls of the large classrooms are being painted the color requested by individual teachers and each will have a “smart board,” she said.
A playground area will be located near the younger students’ section and a larger athletic field near that.
Basile said the school will include all new furniture and teachers will only need to bring their teaching materials.
All current personnel will transfer to the new school, including both principals, for a total of about 80 employees.
“Some of the elementary wing, they are very close to completing,” she said. “But you get to the middle school wing” and more work needs to be done, pending the arrival of the insulation.
“They had enough to get the main hallway done (in the middle school wing),” she added.
Monroe County schools have had a more stable student population than most other systems.
Basile said there was a slight drop in the number of elementary students but a bit of an increase in students in the middle school.
Overall, the student population has dropped less than 100 during the pandemic.
When the new Peterstown School opens, it will be the culmination of a long process and a lot of work by supporters who have been pushing for the school for many years.
The middle school was built in the 1950s and the elementary school in 1962, both long past their expected lifespan, and both chock full of problems.
Angie Mann, James Monroe High School principal and former principal of the middle school, said previously that both schools have deteriorated to the point between 15 and 20 percent of resources have to be used for maintenance just to keep things operating.
Problems, she said, include an old boiler that often requires parts that are no longer made, outdated electrical and plumbing systems, inadequate heat and air conditioning, and not enough space in the cafeteria.
Basile said in an earlier story the cost to renovate the two schools would be about $13 million, and the school system would still be stuck with two very old buildings that require continuous upkeep.
But two bond referendums to raise part of the money to build the new school, a requirement to obtain the bulk of funding from the state School Building Association (SBA), failed.
After everything was done locally to raise the money, though, the SBA recognized the dire need and agreed to allocate $16 million for the project, along with $2 million the school system had already set aside for the new school.
Basile said the construction bid came in under $18 million.
“We hit it just right,” she said of having the project in place before the sudden increase in the cost for materials and construction caused by the pandemic, with shortages and supply chain issues.
Work may be finished before the end of the school year, but the move won’t take place until August.
Even if the work is finished by spring, Basile said moving at that time would not be feasible because of testing and other things going on in the schools that could not be interrupted.
Moving over the summer makes more sense, she added, and maintenance will be handling the work so everything will be in place when teachers, and then students, arrive.
Wickline said he is hoping that no major problems will surface at the old schools this year, especially with heating, which has already closed the middle school for a day.
Offices at the front entrance to the school face the mountains, presenting a spectacular view few schools have.
Jason Shantie, wth the architectural firm that designed the school, also was impressed with the view.
“The view from the front is really pretty,” he said. “This (school) is gong to be a nice one.”
“We’re really excited for the kids to get this school,” Basile said. “I think it’s bringing a lot of excitement to the community.”
Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com