By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
While students at Anawalt Elementary have adjusted to a temporary building, McDowell County school officials are still working to determine the fate of their former school building and how to fund construction of a new elementary school.
The original Anawalt Elementary building was constructed during the early 1920s but was closed in July 2012 by order of the fire marshal and health department for health and safety reasons. Since the 2012-13 school year started, the 112 students at Anawalt Elementary have attended class at a modular building set up in the parking lot of the old school building.
McDowell County Board of Education President Mike Callaway said the new modular unit being used for school is state-of-the-art and has all the technology any modern elementary school requires.
“We have in place a complete, modular school and everyone who has been in the place is very impressed,” Callaway said. “It has computer monitors, smart boards and air conditioning, which the old school didn’t. This building has a shelf life of between 10 and 15 years. It’s not a bunch of trailers. It’s a building all hooked together that functions like a single building. It isn’t as large as the old school, but you have to remember the current school has one-fifth the population the old school was built for almost 100 years ago.”
Callaway said the county board of education is planning to ask the state School Building Authority to help finance a new, permanent school building.
“It was an emergency situation we had to deal with,” Callaway said. “We are discussing petitioning the School Building Authority to help fund a new building. The only problem now is money. We had made a proposal to the SBA before last year to build a consolidated elementary school bringing the Anawalt, Fall River and Welch schools into one building, but the SBA denied that application.”
Callaway said the SBA has helped the county out in the past, especially to replace schools in flood plains.
“The SBA has been very good to us,” he said. “They have helped us build two new high schools, a K-8 school, and two elementary schools. We do hope to build a new elementary school for the kids in Anawalt. I am not sure what the configuration of that building will be or if it will be consolidated with another school. At this time, there is no plan on the table to consolidate Anawalt into another, already existing elementary school.”
Anawalt Elementary School Principal Bonnie Campbell said the students have no complaints about their current location.
“The kids love it,” Campbell said. “We have a part cafeteria, part gym called a gymnatorium. We use the playground area at the old school site. As far as teaching, it is just the same but in a different building. Not everyone has their own room, which has been difficult. We have some of our Title I folks sharing a conference room. A lot of people think we are in a series of trailers, but its actually one cohesive building. We have everything we need: computer labs, kitchens and classrooms. Our basketball team has even been practicing at the community courts. I have to say, we have the best bunch of kids I have ever had at this school. It’s no different than anywhere else.”
Delegate Clif Moore, D-McDowell, said the modular classroom the students are in were made possible through the support of former State School Superintendent Dr. Jorea Marple and SBA Executive Director Dr. Mark Manchin.
“They are state-of-the-art, right off the assembly line,” Moore said of the structure. “We didn’t get used ones.”
Moore said the modular classrooms will have to be used until school officials come up with an alternative school construction plan for the old Adkin’s District area of McDowell County.
Anawalt Mayor Dorothy Wilson said the community has also been receptive to the modular building.
“The kids are loving the new building,” Wilson said. “It’s a beautiful building and we love having the school children around. The way they are all together in one building is great now. The community loves having the little ones around.”
Wilson said keeping an elementary school in the area is very important to the community.
“We would rather have the school here than have the children sent somewhere else, like Welch,” Wilson said. “We don’t know what they will do with the old school building, but we would like to have a new permanent building built in this area. They could even keep what they have now and add on to it. It’s very important to have this school here. We don’t want the little ones to have to get up early to catch a bus to somewhere else. We are a small community, and we have struggled, but we all love our community and our school.”
— Contact Kate Coil at firstname.lastname@example.org