Efforts to replace Harlan Co. school could be stalled

By: Kendall Downing Email
By: Kendall Downing Email

Community leaders and school officials have been working for years to make building a new Wallins School a priority - even purchasing land! They said the building's problems are just becoming too much to handle.

But a new report by the state may stand in the way of the school getting a new building.

The assessment puts the needs of two other schools in the county district ahead of Wallins. Administrators are afraid they may not get a new school anytime soon.

"Wallins is the main concern," said Tim Saylor, Harlan Co. Schools Superintendent.

There is no way to repair the school's coal-powered furnace if it goes out.

There are other problems at the school. Sewage pipes have collapsed, and waste is leaking out.

"There was a lot of frustration and disappointment once we saw the final assessment," said Saylor.

Saylor said the state's recent report leaves him with questions, because the district has the Wallins School at the top of its priority list.

"The function is to inform the Kentucky General Assembly about the need districts have, so when they're looking at funding for facilities they can prioritize," said Lisa Gross, with the Kentucky Department of Education.

Two other schools in the county - Evarts Elementary and Green Hills Elementary - ranked higher on the improvement list than Wallins.

"We are very confident that the vendor we worked with on the project did a thorough job," said Gross.

"We're getting to where these are problems that we cannot fix. It's going to negatively affect the kids at school and their progress," said Bristol Belcher, Wallins Principal.

While a new school is not out of the question, district leaders fear this assessment could keep them from getting state funding.

"My question is - what do we do? What do we do when that coal furnace goes out," said Saylor, "We are in a gray area, and we need some direction."

State officials said the assessment is just a guide for school districts and legislators.

The Harlan County School Board President said they plan to write letters to senators and representatives to echo the importance of the Wallins School project.

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