By MARLA PISCIOTTA
For The State Journal
KEYSER — Construction of the new Keyser Primary School was underway by spring 2013 and students from pre-K through 4th grade moved in to their new facilities Jan. 8.
Mineral County Board of Education Assistant Superintendent and Treasurer Steve Peer said last week the school is a state-of-the-art facility, and "is something we've wanted and needed for a long time."
Peer said in December, just before the Christmas break, teachers walked the K-4 students, one grade at a time, carrying all their books to the new school.
"The kids were taken to their specific classes and were allowed to put their book in their desks," Peer said. "Then they were taken for a tour of their new school.
"This was one of my best days in education. I and the children were overjoyed."
The students walked back to their old school and when Christmas break was over they began the new calendar year at the new Keyser Primary School, knowing where to go and where their desks were.
The school houses roughly 685 students and cost $15 million to construct.
It covers 62,100 square feet and is located on what is known as Clark Field, the site of the former football field.
Sixty-three percent of the funding came from the School Building Authority and the remainder from the Mineral County schools.
The structure is one story with one wing designed for the pre-K and first grade students and a second wing for the third- and fourth-grade students.
Skylights are throughout the building, and all exterior windows are tinted.
"We have a security system whereby anyone entering the building after students arrive has to be buzzed in through a security door," Peer said.
There is a multi-purpose room, a gymnasium with four basketball stations and accommodations for a volleyball net.
Peer said the cafeteria will seat about half of the student body at one time; however, the lunch schedule is in shifts.
The school has 84 employees including staff, cooks and custodians.
"We have an art room complete with ceramic kiln, a music room and separate rooms for a nurse's station and physical therapy facility," Peer said.
All classrooms are equipped with light sensors that turn the lights on when there is activity in the rooms and off when everyone has left the room.
"The school has many energy-saving items," Peer said.
The general contractor for the project was Harbell Corp. of Cumberland, Md. It was designed and overseen by Blackwood Engineering.
A new football field is now located just north of the old.
"We were able to shove the existing football field north after the construction of the school on the original footprint," Peer said. "The field is still a practice field and can be used for community events."
Peer said the new school was a necessity to the area.
"At one time the Keyser Primary Middle School housed just under 1,200 students," he said. "That is more population than in six West Virginia counties."
Ninety students from the Keyser Pre-K Head Start building moved into the new school. That building is owned by the federal government.
Peer said the board of education is trying to find out how that building, now vacant, would be used.
"Around 550 students moved from the middle school to the new KPS," Peer said.