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Damaged Harman School reopens to grades 6-12

ELKINS, W.Va. — Eight months after the building’s roof collapsed, all Harman School students are scheduled to return to the facility next week.

The Randolph County Board of Education voted Thursday to accept Superintendent Terry George’s recommendation that all Harman School students in grades 6-12 that are currently attending other schools be permitted to return to their home school effective Monday.

All BOE members present voted in favor of the decision, prompting applause from the crowd of approximately 25 Harman residents attending the meeting.

Board member Bruce Haddix was not present at Thursday’s meeting.

“I’d like to ask (Harman residents) to please forgive the roadblocks we’ve had to go through to get here, but we told you last summer when we met at Elkins High School that we were going to reopen your school,” George told the Harman residents. “Monday morning we’re going to reopen your school.”

The state deputy fire marshal approved the students’ return to school once Phase II of the Harman School Renovation Project was underway. Students will be temporarily housed in the gym and stage area until repairs are complete.

“It will be open on Monday morning. Students will be rolling in on buses so it might be nice to just call (Principal Tammie Daniels) and ask if there’s anything you can do to help her get ready for Monday morning,” George said.

Phase II, contracted to Lombardi Development Group, will repair the east wing main hallway, along with four of the classrooms damaged by the roof’s collapse.

Harman residents announced at a previous board meeting an anonymous $10,000 donation was received to assist in funding repairs on the fifth damaged room, the science lab.

During the public comment section of Thursday’s meeting, Harman resident Kim Landis presented George with a $1,000 donation from Deerfield Village Resorts in Canaan Valley, along with a $9,000 check from an anonymous donor to go toward repairing the science lab. Together with the previously announced $10,000 donation, officials believe enough has been raised to complete the fifth classroom.

“I will contact (the contractors) tomorrow to let them know that we have additional funding and to get a change order prepared to go ahead and work on the science lab so we can go ahead and open that entire wing,” George said.

Upon completion of the project, the vocational/agricultural shop will be the only damaged room left in the east wing. Seven classrooms in the west wing remain unusable and, like the shop, were not listed as part of the project nor required by the fire marshal to be repaired before the students could return.

Board member Harvey Taylor congratulated Harman residents for their success in raising the necessary funds to make the project a reality.

“You have worked hard with the school, with the community and with each other,” Taylor said. “We did have some bumps and grinds that’s behind me and I’m looking forward to you guys going forward and I’m looking to go forward. I cannot do anything but applaud you guys.”

Taylor thanked “everyone from the state department to any kid that bought a hot dog at the fundraisers.

“Everyone that has given you money, given Ms. Landis money, given Ms. Teter money I thank them from the Randolph County Board of Education,” he said.

Harvey also praised George, and his fellow board members.

“We said that Wednesday night in Elkins we (weren’t) closing it. The people said we was. We’ll see you Monday morning,” he said. “You’re back in school. Thank you so much for all the hard work you’ve done. I appreciate it.”

Board member Donna Auvil said she has not wavered from the beginning in her belief that the children needed to return to their home school.

“I’m pretty outspoken. I’ve made a couple enemies – I hope only a couple – and I’ve made a lot of friends in this process,” Auvil said. “I know it hasn’t been fast. My husband was a contractor for many years and it’s very painful when you’re building and you like things done quickly – (it) takes time.”

Board member Janie Newlon expressed her excitement over the announcement.

“I think it’s awesome that (students) finally get to go back and I’ll tell you, I’m gonna miss your guys’ faces,” she said to the Harman residents in attendance. “Thank you for working really hard, because you guys have worked really hard.”

Landis, whose 7th-grade son attends Harman School, said after the meeting that, with her son returning to his home school, he will now wake up at 7 a.m. rather than 5:30 a.m. on school days.

“He won’t be tired in the evening now. He’ll be able to concentrate during the day and he won’t come home worn out,” Landis said.

She said the prospect of returning to Harman School has boosted the morale of the students.

“You’ve got a group of seniors who will now be able to (attend) their home school, be able to graduate from their own school. It’s going to be an awesome time,” Landis added.

Board member Bruce Haddix was not present at Thursday’s meeting.

Harman School was deemed unsafe after an entire plaster ceiling fell in one of the school’s classrooms during the July 4th weekend last year, bringing down two tons of material. No one was present at the time in the school, which was built in the 1950s.

When the school was declared unusable, parents and community members stepped forward and worked to raise funds to assist the school board in repairing the school.

Officials estimated that between $205,000 and $207,000 was spent to repair part of the building so the elementary students could return to the building Nov. 18. An estimated $250,000 will be spent on Phase II of the project after the change order for the science lab goes through.

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