Modular unit will allow Normantown
students to remain at community school

Normantown area parents and supporters have donated
hundreds of hours working to save their community school

By Bob Weaver

Some of Normantown's elementary school students are spending the first week of school in their gym because a mold problem on the school's main floor has not been resolved.

The Gilmer County school board voted unanimously at least twice directing Superintendent Ed Toman to place a two-room modular building on the site until the problem can be rectified.

The modular unit is now on a foundation.

Principal Shirley Hupp (left) said students will likely be moving into the modular unit by the first of the week, saying the Fire Marshal is scheduled to do an inspection Friday.

"Kids have been doing pretty well in the gym, getting lots of cool snacks," Hupp said. "There is a lot of community support here, and some really great parents."

"We just want to get classes started and move ahead for this school year," Hupp concluded.

Mold was discovered last fall, but students were kept in the school during the 2006-07 year. This summer, Superintendent Toman Ed wanted to bus the students to Glenville Elementary until the mold problem could be corrected.

Normantown parents revolted, viewing the unresolved mold problem as an effort to close the community school.

Misty Pritt, spokesperson for a Normantown parents group and a Challenge WV fellow, said "This seems like a long and difficult road, but is has been worth traveling for our children."

Normantown alumni president Wilda Jenkins said "It is a case of foot-dragging and hiring consultants over and over," reminding the school board that the alumni group has raised over $200,000 in scholarships for local graduates.

School board member Phyllis Starkey said "Mr. Toman has been throwing up barriers to get the mold problem fixed. School Building Authority, president, Mark Manchin says he has no problem with fixing the school's first floor."

Three studies have said the building is structurally sound. "Now Mr. Toman wants another study for the Fire Marshal. What part of structurally sound does he not understand?" she asked.

"The bottom line, he wants Normantown closed," said Starkey.

Starkey contends Mr. Toman is bogging the process down with procedural process. "I have said all along, and the state has generally agreed, this is an emergency. Get Normantown fixed now!" she said.

Toman says he's received several estimates on what it would cost to remove the mold from the Normantown building. He says he is looking at an option of requesting funds from the state School Building Authority later this year for a new school.

Toman told Metro News earlier "I'd like to see a whole new plan for the county," alluding to the possible closure of three rural elementary schools.

Toman says all buildings need upgrades or possibly replaced. But a survey taken a few years ago showed county residents don't want consolidation, they want their community schools repaired.

Toman believes that may not be what's best for the students, according to MetroNews.

Gilmer County is the smallest school system in the state with less than 1,000 students.

Normantown school supporters said yesterday, "The fight has
been difficult, but is has been worth traveling for our children."