Classes Start Monday At Long-Delayed School

CAMERON – Classes at the new Cameron High School begin Monday, but students got their first look at the facility this week.

Thursday had been set as the move-in date for the new school after the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office approved it for occupancy on Dec. 28. Students began arriving just after 9 a.m. Thursday – more than a year after the original planned opening of the building.

Classes at the school begin Monday, officials said.

As pupils arrived at the $31.8 million school for an orientation day, they were greeted by crews washing windows from scissor lifts and workers who were still vacuuming the steps and painting steel beams. According to Marshall County Schools Superintendent Wayne Simms, the amount of cleaning left to be completed was the main factor in moving the start date to Monday.

“We were pretty close to the schedule, but we needed about four more days,” he said while giving a tour of the building. “With this new terazzo floor, we’ve mopped it several times and we can’t get the dust off of it. We are working to find a better way to clean it.”

In addition to cleaning, Simms said the final painting on the main gymnasium court was expected to begin Thursday, and crews will continue to work on the emergency alarm system in the theater area with final approval expected to be granted on those areas by the end of the month. He added that he hopes to have crews working at the school throughout the weekend to complete the remaining cleaning.

Students didn’t seem to notice the ongoing work as they walked through the nearly 1.5 miles of hallways, seeing their classrooms and finding their lockers for the first time. Officials said the new school contains about 140,000 square feet of space on three different levels. The old school consists of only about 56,000 square feet.

Many students said they were excited to finally be in the building after more than a year of delays. Simms and Cameron High School Principal Jack Cain pointed out some of the features of the new building, including the walking track suspended above the main gymnasium and the painted murals in the auxiliary gymnasium, where students took the opportunity to test out the rims on the new basketball backboards.

Plans initially called for substantial renovations to be made to the existing Cameron high/middle school building using $2.5 million from a 2006 bond passed by voters. A whole new building was planned after money was obtained from the West Virginia School Building Authority.

Construction was delayed in 2011 with extreme wet weather named as the culprit. A new October 2012 completion date was set.

Throughout the first half of 2012, work continued on pace with the October deadline. In June, however, officials said more delays had occurred, again citing weather and the natural gas industry boom as reasons. After meetings between school representatives, trade unions and contractors, an eight-page, 450-task schedule was created, outlining the remaining work. A Dec. 18 completion date was set as part of that schedule.

In July, board of education member Lori Kestner voiced concern about the quality of work, showing photos of cracked block and pavement and non-working drains to project managers and other board members. The board made a commitment to ensure the quality of work was not being jeopardized in favor of speeding up the process.

A new project manager was appointed in July just after the board met in a closed-door executive session to discuss change orders on the project, as well as budget concerns. A second executive session was held in August, after which the board approved a $528,000 payment to Nello Construction for change orders.

Work continued until December, when a walk-through of the nearly completed building was conducted by a state fire marshal. Because of the size of the building, the fire marshal had to return to the site to complete the inspection. On Dec. 13, officials were given the go-ahead to move students into the building pending the completion of minor work.