Hancock Schools back in session

NEW CUMBERLAND – While Hancock County school children were taking a break this summer, contractors were hard at work making improvements to several schools.

Students, especially those at Allison and New Manchester Elementary schools, will see those changes when they go back to school today.

“Both of the schools really look good,” school board President Jerry Durante said. “When we were at New Manchester, it didn’t even look like the same school.”

The two elementary schools have received a complete overhaul in the past year – each to the tune of about $5 million – and district officials are eager for students and the public to notice the difference. The improvements were made possible by a $37 million bond levy approved by Hancock County voters in November 2010.

In the case of Allison Elementary in Chester, the renovations include new heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems; a new pre-kindergarten wing with three classrooms and a separate entrance; a new physical education room; new playground equipment; new ceilings; new floors; new windows and doors; a redesigned, secure main entrance; new restroom fixtures; and electrical and data wiring upgrades.

An open house and dedication ceremony at Allison is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. Sunday. A similar event will be held at New Manchester in the near future, Superintendent Suzan Smith said.

The scope of the work at New Manchester Elementary was similar but also included a new roof. While work at Allison finished ahead of schedule, work at New Manchester is expected to wrap up in time for the new school year, Smith said.

“They’re ready for school,” Smith said.

Ron Blatt, project manager for Project and Construction Services Inc., of Wheeling, recently told the school board that New Manchester also has a new parking lot, with 59 parking spaces, and a new pre-K wing and entrance.

The pre-K rooms at both schools will help bring Hancock County Schools into compliance with new state standards for universal pre-kindergarten. Formalized by the West Virginia Legislature in 2002, universal pre-K means state schools must offer the program to 4-year-olds whose parents want them to attend.

“All families who desire a space in the universal pre-K system must be accommodated,” according to a summary of the policy posted on the West Virginia Department of Education’s website.

Hancock County’s high school students also will notice a difference when they return today.

At Oak Glen High School, workers from Grae-Con Construction, of Steubenville, are putting the finishing touches on a renovation of the science classrooms and laboratories. Grae-Con’s winning bid of $318,000 includes the installation of all new science lab casework at Oak Glen and Weir High schools.

Along with the new science labs, the bond call package will result in the renovation of all restrooms at the high schools and the Milton Weinberg Theater at Weir High. Restrooms will be made handicapped accessible, and the theater’s seats, floor and stage will be refurbished.

Work at the high schools is expected to be done by early September, Blatt said.

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)