Beckley, WV – (WWNR) – After more than two years of construction, students are almost ready to walk through the doors of the new Stratton Elementary School.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Friday for the new 20 million dollar facility, which brought out Stratton alumni, community leaders and state and local education officials.
“Our students can expect a phenomenal facility,” said Raleigh County School Superintendent Serena Starcher. “One that’s bright, cheerful, has lots of different colors. It should be very stimulating for them. They can expect spaces that are specially designed for them. We try to keep the children in mind with every decision we make.”
The new school sits on the grounds of the former Stratton Elementary, which began life in 1938 as a high school serving African-American Students. It became a junior high in 1967 and then an elementary school. Starcher says the new school honors the past, while looking ahead to the future.
“As we worked with our committee from East Beckley on this project, it was very important to us to remember the history and to reflect it throughout the building. You see it in school colors with the hall prints and the tarazos or the accent walls in classrooms, the furniture in the building, the mural, the tribute museum. There’s a great deal of history that’s being shared through the building.”
Among those attending Friday’s ceremony were former Raleigh County education official Miller Hall, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and Babydog, and former School Superitendent David Price, who was instrumental in getting the project off the ground.
“We met back in June of 2018 with a small committee from East Beckley to kind of get things rolling and to determine if we will be able to pursue this. And once we got that moving, we worked with the school building authority and presented this and got a grant from them for over 8 million to go with our funding. But at the same time, we surveyed students, staff, community members, parents and what they wanted to see in a school. Take all that information, put it together and then met with our architects to get a design of what we knew had to be here. Plus what the community wanted.”
One of the highlights of the new school is a large mural in the cafeteria, which features tiles painted by students and staff depicting former Stratton graduates, including its most famous alumnus, Rock and Roll Hall Of Famer Bill Withers. There’s also a tribute museum which will include pictures, yearbooks, newspapers and other memorabilia.
Work continues on clearing the site of the old Stratton School. When that’s completed, a parking lot, outdoor basketball court, soccer field and playground will be built on the grounds where the former historic elementary school stood
Students will get their first look at the new Stratton Elementary during an open house Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30pm. The first day of school for students in Raleigh County is Thursday, August 24th.