WEIRTON - Pupils from Weirton Heights Elementary, Liberty Elementary and Broadview Elementary will be attending a shiny new school building starting Aug. 20, and the long-awaited dedication ceremony for the consolidated Weirton Elementary School took place Sunday.
"The vision has finally become a reality, and we are ready," Superintendent Suzan Smith said. "This building will serve elementary students in the Weirton area for many, many years to come. We are so proud of this new school."
The dedication included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, performances by the Weirton Elementary Bell Choir, tours and refreshments.
DESIGNED FOR THE DECADES — The new consolidated Weirton Elementary School on Pennsylvania Avenue is more than 105,000 square feet with two floors and more than 60 classrooms. “Everything here was designed to last for many years,” according to Frank J. Carey, former principal of Weirton Heights Elementary and current principal of the new school. -- Shae Dalrymple
RIBBON CUT — Hancock County School Board members, Weirton Elementary staff and several local officials took part in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new consolidated Weirton Elementary School on Pennsylvania Avenue during a dedication ceremony complete with tours, entertainment and refreshments on Sunday. -- Shae Dalrymple
Plaques were awarded to the biggest donors to the school. The Sisters of St. Joseph donated $100,000, and Smith's brother, George Smith, donated $50,000. A plaque also is being delivered to representatives of ArcelorMittal recognizing their contributions as well.
Frank J. Carey, former principal of Weirton Heights Elementary, is now principal at the new building. Andrea Dulaney, former principal of Broadview Elementary, and Derek Van Dyke, a Brooke County native who recently moved back from North Carolina, are joining him as assistant principals.
"Finally getting to see kids inside the building is the most exciting part of today," Carey commented.
Located at 3428 Pennsylvania Ave., the new elementary takes up more than 105,000 square feet and can accommodate up to 950 students, from pre-kindergarten through the fourth grade, in more than 60 classrooms, not including resource rooms and administrative offices.
"It's an exciting time for the community. This new school will improve the quality of education in our area for year to come," noted State Sen. Rocky Fitzsimmons, D-Wheeling.
Del. Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, was also in attendance.
"I think this a great thing for Weirton. It's something we have needed for a long time. An upgraded educational facility will help us to market the city better, so it's a win for everyone," commented Ward 2 Councilman Chuck Wright.
The facility, for pupils in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, will feature three separate areas for learning, divided into pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, first and second grades and third and fourth grades. The school is equipped with two computer labs, two gymnasiums and a cafeteria featuring a dishwashing unit, several walk-in coolers, a dry storage room, an office for food service staff members and a separate entrance specifically for food deliveries.
The entire building is wireless and handicap accessible, according to officials. It features a state-of-the-art security system as well as a full-time prevention resource officer on site from the Hancock County Sheriff's Department.
The school houses the first school-based health center in the Northern Panhandle, which will be operated by C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc. The center features several exam rooms and will provide students with limited treatment when necessary, including wellness checks, immunizations and behavioral health counseling. No student will be sent to the 1,800 square foot health center without express written permission from a parent, Smith said.
McKinley and Associates, an architectural and engineering firm based in Wheeling, designed the plans for the new building, and Project and Construction Services Inc. of Cleveland oversaw and managed construction.
Ernie Dellatorre of McKinley and Ron Blatt of PCS both addressed the crowd Sunday regarding their nearly five years of work on the project.
Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh spoke on behalf of Mayor George J. Kondik, who was unable to attend.
"On behalf of myself and council members, we wish you the best of luck in the upcoming years," Marsh read. "On a ward note, this is the very first public school within Ward 3 in the history of this city. Carey and Smith have done a very nice job here so far."
School officials expressed gratitude to the voters and taxpayers of Hancock County numerous times throughout the dedication celebration for making the new school possible.
"Hancock County has always stepped up when it comes to our kids," observed Jerry Durante, Hancock County School Board president. "This is an absolutely first rate facility."
Hancock County residents approved a bond levy in 2010 to generate a total of $56 million, $37 million from local taxes and $19 million from the state School Building Authority. The levy covered the costs of the new consolidated Weirton Elementary School and also allocated funding for renovations at other county schools.
"It's been a long haul from getting the levy passed to now, so this is a glorious day. Thank you to the community and to the voters. It's a true blessing," Dulaney said.
Beginning today, the school office will be open for new enrollments, and parents and pupils are scheduled to visit from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday to meet with teachers and become familiar with bus schedules and class routines.
School will open Aug. 20 for pupils in first through fourth grade, with kindergarten beginning Aug. 27 and pre-kindergarten on Sept. 2.
In anticipation of the school year, the Weirton Police Department also has released the locations of its crossing guards for the year.
Guards will be located at Pennsylvania Avenue and Weir Avenue; Pennsylvania Avenue and Orpha Avenue; County Road and Avenue F; Bright Way and Euclid Avenue; Marland Heights Road and West Street; and Pennsylvania Avenue and Powers Road in the morning and Pennsylvania Avenue and East Bellview in the afternoon.