Photo Courtesy Randolph County Board of Education
Homestead Elementary School in 1939 and today, side-by-side.

ELKINS, W.Va. — The parents of more than 100 students lobbied hard to keep Homestead Elementary School in Randolph County open for another year.

And, for now, they have been rewarded.

On Dec. 19, the Randolph County Board of Education unanimously rejected the recommendation to close the 106-student elementary school in Valley Bend, WV. And with no additional votes slated for 2016, students will be able to return to Homestead Elementary School for the start of the 2017-18 school year in August.

“At this time, with the fact that the [Randolph County] Board [of Education] chose not to close Homestead Elementary, that school is slated to be operational for the upcoming school year,” Randolph County Superintendent Pam Hewitt said.

The deadline for a closure vote will pass when the ball drops on 2017, but parents, alumni, and community members who wish to keep Homestead Elementary school open long-term have an uphill battle facing them.

“This gives us some time to work to try to get money together to work on the school because there are some updates that it needs to bring it up to current code,” Tom Renix, of the Tygarts Valley Homstead Association, said last week on MetroNews “Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval.”

The original two-story building opened in 1939. Now, it needs a new roof, new electrical system, and an update of the plumbing.

“When you take all of that into consideration, in order to get that building up to code and where it needs to be would take approximately five million dollars,” Hewitt said.

Updating the plumbing presents another paradoxical twist: asbestos that’s untouched beneath the school.

“If there were to be repairs made, or there were to be new plumbing put in or drains and sinks–things of that nature — and that would be disturbed; that would be an issue and a very costly ordeal,” Hewitt said.

To remain open long-term, repairs are needed to bring the building up to modern state code. But those repairs would force Renix and his supporters’ hand. The asbestos issue only needs to be addressed if repairs are done, but repairs must be done to keep the school open in the long-term.

All those hurdles in mind, Renix believes the 77-year-old building is worth saving.

“It’s one of the fixtures of our community,” he said. “It’s part of our heritage. It’s part of our identity.”

The plan rejected by the Randolph County Board of Education would have divided the 106 student populace of Homestead up and consolidated them with either George Ward Elementary School or Beverly Elementary School.

Renix said parents weren’t on-board with that plan.

“This would cause an undue hardship on those families,” he said. “It would waste a very good location. The building is structurally sound. It just needs some modern updates.”

For now, the communities that make up the Homestead area have a shot, and Renix is willing to discuss any idea on how to save the school with anybody.

“We just want to do everything we can to save Homestead School,” he said.

He can be reached at (304) 940-1855 or by e-mail at tomahawk74@outlook.com.

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