By JAMES E. CASTO
For The State Journal
Students and teachers are settling into Cabell County's newest school — the new $23 million Huntington East Middle School.
The ultramodern school welcomed its first students Jan. 8, and now is home to almost 800 sixth, seventh and eighth graders who previously attended Beverly Hills and Enslow middle schools.
The school, located between U.S. 60 East and Norway Avenue, near Walmart and the Huntington Detachment of the West Virginia State Police, will have an official ribbon cutting at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 18 in the school's gymnasium.
Jedd T. Flowers, communications director for the county school system, said public tours of the new school will be offered that night, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Flowers said the tours are being conducted in conjunction with a special Parent-Teacher Conference the same evening. Anyone who would like to see the new facility is invited to participate in the tours, he said.
The 104,000-square-foot facility was built through $19 million in funding from the West Virginia School Building Authority and a $4 million match from the school system.
Designed by ZMM Architects & Engineers of Charleston, the school has four wings. One wing includes the administrative offices, the gymnasium and the cafeteria, and the other three wings house classrooms and lockers. Each of the three wings is designated by grade.
According to ZMM Architects, the new school is the first in West Virginia to be certified as a "green school" by the U.S. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED program.
The school incorporates such green technologies as an on-site compost machine, large windows to maximize natural light, motion and daylight sensitive lighting and computer monitoring stations to show energy usage throughout the school.
A description of the school on the ZMM website notes that the monitoring stations will enable sixth, seventh and eighth grade teams to compete against each other in energy consumption and conservation. "Through on-line learning and technology systems throughout the facility, students will be able to also work with and compete with facilities throughout the world," the website says.
The school's compost system will not only consume kitchen waste but also all paper waste throughout the school. The students then will be able to take the product and provide compost for the school's vegetable gardens, which will provide produce for the school. The green technology even extends to the structure's roof, which is covered with a white rubber material designed to help reflect light and keep the school cooler in the warmer months.
The Huntington East Middle School was constructed on the hilltop site of the former West Virginia Colored Children's Home, which was demolished to make way for the new school.
Built in 1923, the old building was on the National Register of Historic Places but had long been vacant and was in poor repair. Local historian and preservationist Karen Nance and others unsuccessfully challenged the building's demolition. But the school system said its exhaustive study showed the Colored Children's Home site was the only one that would allow a new school to effectively serve the neighborhood.