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East Bank Middle School slated for renovations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - East Bank Middle School Principal Mike Wilkinson is excited about the more than $5 million in renovations slated for his facility.

But the new air conditioning system planned for the notoriously toasty school has Wilkinson, the students and staff especially excited.

"Ever since I've been here, mainly the air conditioner works when it wants to," said Wilkinson, who has been at the school for three years.

He said veteran teachers have learned how to get through days that are "miserable." Excessive heat also affects student learning.

"It's hard for kids to focus anyway, but when you throw heat at them, it makes it more difficult," Wilkinson said.

Chuck Wilson, facilities director for Kanawha County Schools, agrees. The school was built in the 1960s, and he said there hasn't been any upgrade to the air conditioning system. His people have tried to repair it in recent years but the components have just outlived their usefulness.

With the new system, Wilkinson said teachers should be able to have more control of the temperature in individual rooms. It should allow for more comfort throughout the entire year, he said.

Kanawha County officials pledged to address air conditioning issues system-wide with funds from the excess levy. The additional revenue gleaned from the property tax means the county has $20 million to devote to improving school heating and cooling systems.

In May, before county voters approved the levy renewal, Maintenance Director Terry Hollandsworth had 10 employees working almost every day on heating and cooling problems. At the time, he said there was a priority list for how to use the additional money, and East Bank Middle was near the top of that list.

Wilson said the $5.4 million devoted to renovating East Bank Middle is coming from excess levy funds. The school system has an agreement with Johnson Controls to help fund the projects up front, so the school system can start the projects before the new levy starts in 2014. Johnson Controls has provided some help on this project, Wilson said.

In addition to the air conditioning upgrade, the school itself is getting a facelift. New toilets, lockers and tile floors in the hallways are planned. A redesigned entryway will create a commons area for students, Wilson said.

"It's going to be a more modernized East Bank Middle School," Wilkinson said.

The county school board is scheduled to approve bids for the renovation work at its meeting this evening. Wilson said bid prices came in as expected.

Even if the contracts are approved today, Wilson said the new equipment won't come in until this winter. He expected some work to be done by the spring and the entire project completed by the start of next year.

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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