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School renovated in age of rebuilding

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Though many school building projects focus on tearing down and building bigger, one West Virginia county decided to fix up a historic school and keep students there.

Ohio County Superintendent George Krelis said his county knew Triadelphia Middle School, located in Wheeling's Oak Park district, needed updating but never considered tearing it down.

"There was never a discussion of demolishing the building," he said. "It's in tremendous condition.

"Structurally, it's a beautiful facility."

He said the middle school is also a mainstay of its community with a long history among residents.

Triadelphia was built in 1917, functioning as a high school until 1976 when it became a junior high, housing seventh- through ninth-graders. The school became a middle school in 1991, accommodating sixth- through eighth-grade.

It sits on 27 acres of land in Wheeling's Oak Park district and features a main academic building, a fine arts building, athletic building, a football field and basketball courts.

Krelis said the facility is "more than ample in size to provide all the opportunities we need."

Crews have recently moved the school's main office, once located on the second floor, to the ground floor. They've also reconfigured the building's main entrance, upgraded the ventilation system and lighting in the building's hallways, painted the building's interior and set up a reading area on the school's third floor for students to use during their free time.

Though the state School Building Authority granted Ohio County more than $500,000 to complete the project, Krelis said the renovations will cost just over $330,000.

"We made it a very beautiful building that will last us for many years for a very marginal fee for our community," Krelis said.

Ohio board of education members toured the newly renovated school early this week.

"They were very, very pleased," Krelis said.

The superintendent said the county put a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the school several years ago and installed new windows with financial help from the state School Building Authority.

Krelis said the county also removed all the asbestos from the school years ago. He said workers removed the toxic insulation whenever they encountered it during construction and remodeling projects, eventually replacing all of it.

It's often difficult to install new technology in old schools: thick, solid walls and outdated electrical systems make it difficult to run wires and hook up lots of electricity-sucking computers.

Krelis said bringing technology into Triadelphia proved a challenge at times but is no longer a problem.

"We've remedied it. We have technology everywhere," he said.

Krelis said the school has a computer lab on its ground floor, as well as computers, digital whiteboards and projectors in every classroom.

But reusing antiquated school buildings isn't always an option for school districts.

Kanawha County Schools will move students out of the 80-year-old Glenwood Elementary building in March to a brand-new school on Florida Street. Chandler Elementary students will also attend the new school.

Chuck Wilson, facilities director and chief architect for Kanawha County Schools, said the county had to replace those schools because repairing them wasn't a feasible option.

"We always look first to see if we can use what we've got, but sometimes you can't," he said.

Wilson said the school system does everything it can to make the buildings look good, even if they aren't as nice as they used to be.

"We try to keep them painted up. To the untrained eye, they look nice," Wilson said.

But it's what's on the inside that counts, he said, and that's not nearly as attractive.

"This building started out burning coal," Wilson said.

Glenwood now features inefficient gas heating system and lots of asbestos, he said.

Wilson said many old school buildings no longer meet regulations set by state law.

For instance, state fire code requires pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade classes be located on a building's first floor.

But Wilson says Glenwood, a three-story school, only has a couple classrooms on its ground floor. He said the county had to put portable classrooms at the school in the past, just to make enough room for students.

He said the school system doesn't have room to expand at the Glenwood property, either. Houses hem the building in on all sides.

"If the site is a postage stamp, you need to look elsewhere," Wilson said.

The school system plans to trade the Glenwood property to the city of Charleston for a parcel of Cato Park land. The district would then construct a second new West Side elementary school at Cato, and the city would likely demolish Glenwood and turn the area into a park.

Kanawha Valley Historical & Preservation Society members are fighting that plan, however. They say the building, designed in 1922 by Charleston architect H. Rus Warne, is a city landmark and should be preserved.

Warne also designed Charleston City Hall, the Kanawha County Courthouse, the Scottish Rites Temple on Capitol Street and the Charleston Newspapers building, to name a few.

Some West Side residents say they want the school to become a police substation, which they say would reduce the amount of crime in the area.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or



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