Pleasants County breaks ground for a new high school

ST. MARYS – Pleasants County officials and citizens marked the start of construction on the new St. Marys High School with a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site.

Michael Wells, superintendent of Pleasants County Schools, said the new school is designed to provide the best education for the 21st Century.

“We believe this will be the best high school in West Virginia,” he said. “It’s a wonderful blessing for this community, our children will benefit from being educated in classrooms and labs that provide the best opportunities for learning.”

Wells said Pleasants County voters approved a bond for a new school in 2010 and then sought additional money from the West Virginia School Building Authority to replace the old school.

“In 2011 our stakeholders came to the table to begin planning the new St. Mary High School,” he said.

Later the county was awarded the deed for the land adjacent to the Mid-Ohio Valley Technical Institute. Wells said the action will help the school build an athletic complex that will be the envy of other area schools.

“This is an exciting time for Pleasants County Schools and our community in building a 21st Century and cutting edge high school,” he said.

Wells said the school system has set up a live construction camera on the site to allow the public to see the progress on the project. He said the web address for the camera is boe.plea.k12.wv.us.

Dr. Mark Manchin, executive director of the WVSBA, said he was excited to visit the site for Saturday’s groundbreaking.

“In less than two years, behind me will be bricks and mortar, but so much more,” he said. “It will be the hopes and dreams of boys and girls and the hopes and dreams of mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers who truly pray for the future.”

Manchin said Saturday’s ceremony was to honor the community for making the effort to build the new school.

“Often the school building authority gets a lot of credit for building new schools but it all starts right here at the local level,” he said. “If you don’t pass your bond, the SBA doesn’t give you money and it is very competitive as we must work with many communities and boards of education.”

Manchin said Pleasants County went in a direction opposite of most school systems, when it passed a school building bond and then asked the authority for money.

“You have sent a clear message throughout the state of West Virginia that the people of Pleasants County care about the future, the people of Pleasants County care about their children and they are going to prepare their children for the 21st Century,” he said. “Congratulations on a job well done.”

Dr. Heather Streight, president of the Pleasants County Board of Education, said the effort to build the new high school goes back many years.

“This is a celebration of the vision God gave many Pleasants Countians many, many years before today to see through,” she said. “Some will see this through and some will not but they played an important role, nonetheless.”

Streight said the new building was a passion for many in the county who began the process many years before the bond call. She said the project shows in Pleasants County people see their children’s education as the top priority.

Thomas Weber, a 1956 graduate of St. Marys High School, said a high school education is a critical foundation for one’s entire life since it is where students discover their interests and begin to acquire skills.

“It establishes a stage for exploration that is how we perceive through our lives learning all the way to the end,” he said.

Weber said the new school is the fruition of efforts over the years for a new building.

“There were people who established the dream of replacing 60- to 80-year-old facilities my class knew with new educational facilities that will be really geared to the needs of the 21st Century,” he said. “Looking at the changes of technology in our lives over the last 70 years, it is inescapable. There is no way to keep up without the advancements this facility will represent.”