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New portions of two Putnam schools to open

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Students who attend Winfield Middle School and Connor Street Elementary School in Hurricane will return to brand new facilities after the holiday break.

Putnam County Schools officials are readying portions of the new Winfield Middle and Connor Street so they'll be available for students in January, said county Superintendent Chuck Hatfield.

"It's a real exciting time," Hatfield said, adding the projects are two of many for Putnam County Schools.

"When it's all said and done, we will have just about rebuilt the entire county," Hatfield said.

From the time construction started four years ago to when it is completed in two years, the county will have spent roughly $120 million on new schools, Hatfield said.

A large chunk of that money came from a $57 million bond sale in 2009, approved by county voters that agreed to pay higher property taxes to retire the debt. The local effort helped the county secure $22 million from the state School Building Authority.

That $22 million has gone to Winfield Middle, Hatfield said.

During the next two weeks teachers and staff will prepare classrooms in the new, three-story section of the school, said Brad Hodges, county facilities director.

Students will move from the old section to the new section so the older portion can be demolished and the county can rebuild the rest of the school. Hodges said the entire project should be done by the summer of 2014.

"They're going to be probably a little bit cramped. But it's doable. It's workable," Hodges said.

Right now all of the sixth- and seventh-grade students are in portables, Hatfield said. Even if the school is a little cramped for a while, moving out of portables is always a priority, he said.

At Connor Street Elementary the county added seven new classrooms. It cost $3.5 million, with $1 million coming from the authority.

The county also has finished building a new Buffalo High School and Confidence Elementary School, but there's plenty of work still under way.

The county built a new middle school in Poca, but the middle school students stayed in the old building so Poca Elementary School students could move in, Hodges said. The county is adding six classrooms to the old school and renovating its interior. Hatfield said the work should be completed by spring break.

 At that point, the elementary students will move into the renovated school and the middle school students will leave the old building for the new, Hodges said. All of the funding for those projects - $21.6 million - came from the local bond issue.

The county is spending $7.9 million in bond proceeds to add auxiliary gymnasiums to each of the high schools, Hodges said. It's also adding new locker rooms and concession stands at Hurricane, Poca and Winfield high schools. That will cost $2.45 million in local funds by the time work is done.

Construction means headaches for students and administrators alike: Hodges said building projects always generate dirt, and Hatfield acknowledged it can be distracting to have students in a building undergoing a facelift.

The projects have given Hatfield and Hodges a great deal of extra work, too. They're happy to do it, but won't miss it when it's done, they said.

New schools bring new expectations, but Hatfield said his students and teachers are ready.

"Obviously we think a 21st-century facility is going to be more conducive to a 21st-century education," Hatfield said. "Having said that, our kids have historically been doing very well academically, but we're expecting them to do even better."

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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