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Kanawha schools prepare for earliest first day in county history

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mid-July - the peak of summer break for most Kanawha County schoolchildren - looks like a calm time in education.

But the schools are still bustling with activity as employees rush to ready the county's facilities for the influx of students on Aug. 9, the earliest school start date in county history.

The early start date - which allows for the semester to end before Christmas break - meant a shorter summer break this year, by about two weeks. That may have prompted groaning from students countywide, but for the county's facilities personnel, the problems are more concrete.

"It's just less time to get everything done," said Maintenance Director Terry Hollandsworth. "We have several pages of things that we're working on."

A few projects have been pushed to next summer, when the calendar is expected to be more regular, and the summer break will be as long as usual.

But Hollandsworth stressed that nothing major is being put off. Instead, facilities employees are working nonstop to get the work done in the time they have. Lockers are being painted and gym floors refinished, all the normal maintenance projects that are done during the summer to avoid getting in the way of students' learning will be completed.

There are bigger projects too: At Overbrook Elementary in South Hills the computer lab is being relocated to help educators deal with crowding issues, and a few schools are getting entirely new gym floors.

The most massive undertaking though, Hollandsworth says, is a workaday one. This summer, as every other one, janitors are taking on the project of stripping and waxing all the floors in all of the county's schools.

That means moving all the furniture in the building to get to the floors, taking off the current coat of wax, and layering on seven or eight new coats.

The project usually takes all of the schools' janitors - one for each elementary school and two in each middle and high school - all summer long. The shorter break this summer has made them crunch the schedule, but they're still committed to getting the work done.

Hollandsworth says the effects are underappreciated, but important.

"It's just like in your home, when you wax the floor it starts to wear out and if you don't keep a coat of wax on there the tile will wear out prematurely," he said.

"If you keep it clean, you keep it waxed, you have a nicer school, and school children come in happy . . . People don't understand that custodians are an integral part in making sure students get a good education."

The first day of school in Kanawha County is Aug. 9. The last day for that academic year will be May 16, barring any need to cancel school throughout the course of the year.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.

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