Construction projects on schedule as school year returns in Kanawha County

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As the start of the school year approaches in Kanawha County, officials say the numerous construction projects should be all but done.

Chuck Smith, the executive director of Facilities, Planning and Management at Kanawha County Schools (KCS) told 580-WCHS that they hope everything will be “as close to normal” on September 8 when students arrive in the buildings for the first time since March.

One of the heaviest construction zones in the county has been at George Washington High School as the school received a new turf athletic field and HVAC system as part of the multi-million dollar levy passed by voters for all schools.

Smith said the HVAC work will be close to overlapping with the start of school but they have a plan in place. The torn-up parking lot will be paved and lined by the first day of students, according to Smith.

“They’ll be some areas of construction on the ground floor that will be construction zones and off-limits. Classes will be adjusted to allow us to occupy those areas and work during the evening,” he said.

Capital High School joined GWHS as the first two schools to receive the first HVAC systems. Smith said the main academic portion of the building at Capital will be done by Sept. 8.

“The second floor is already ready for occupancy at that point. The first floor should be ready and in good condition by the time students arrive. We plan on moving into the science wing portion of the renovation when school begins,” he said.

Capital will be the final school to have the turf athletic fields finished. Overall, Smith said those have gone smoothly at all the high schools.

“The plan is to have them all completed prior to their first games. The last on the list is Capital for their soccer and they are running probably a couple of weeks after school starts before they are ready,” Smith said.

Capital also received a new roof. Smith said around 15 schools in the county had roofing work done over the summer.

He estimated over $250 million of construction over the next three to four years including the levy projects and the rebuild of the Elk River Schools.

The bidding was put out last week for Clendenin and Herbert Hoover. The school system hopes to begin construction of the new schools in October.

“Clendenin will take around four weeks to bid, Herbet Hoover will take around six weeks in the process. Once we get those bids in, review those and qualify them we will be able to go to the board a week or two after and move forward,” Smith said.

Much of the construction work for the school system comes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Smith said that has impacted workforce and installation procedures but he is proud of all the parties involved to push through and remain on schedules.

“It’s hard finding skilled qualified people to do the job that are willing to come out and work,” Smith said. “It’s affected not only the workforce but also the manufacturers and suppliers of equipment and material. It’s hard to get something when the plants are shut down.”