WEST UNION -- Ground was broken Monday for an elementary school that will bring complete consolidation to Doddridge County schools.
"It was important to have that," said Jeff Moss, school superintendent, of the ceremonial event. "I've noticed that people are talking about it more, even today. It just makes it more concrete."
The $4.1 million facility is scheduled to open no later than the fall of 2002, possibly earlier.
Four existing elementaries will then close.
Like the consolidated middle school with which it will share a site along U.S. Rt. 50, the new school will serve all of the county's nearly 500 elementary students. It is scheduled to have 21 classrooms, a small gymnasium and various administrative areas.
Moss said school officials were to meet Monday night with Williamson, Shriver, Gandee Architects of Charleston to begin the final design phase.
Construction should begin by the end of summer.
"We have to be concerned with the placement of the building, both in terms of the delivery of educational programs as well as the aesthetics," Moss said of making the design compatible with the existing middle school.
The middle school was completed in the mid 1990s. It is a multi-wing structure with a concrete exterior that has a rose tint and a textured surface. An outdoor environmental science pond and observatory are also on the site.
While the details are yet to be completed, Moss added that community interest has been steadily growing.
"It's been a long time getting to this point," Moss said of the four-year process of gaining approvals and financing and developing a plan.
But, it couldn't have happened too soon, according to Earl Daugherty, a Board of Education member who is also president of the county Chamber of Commerce.
"It adds to the economic equation in our community," Daugherty said. "It makes it more appealing for families with children ... And, for the kids, they get out of some old, antiquated buildings into a clean, new school."
The state School Building Authority is financing $3.1 million of the facility's cost, with the school system making up the rest by using existing tax revenue to make payments on a lease-purchase of interior fixtures, Moss said.
Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1403.