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Plans for new high school in Martin County move forward

By: Tanner Hesterberg, Whitney Burks Email
By: Tanner Hesterberg, Whitney Burks Email
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INEZ, Ky. (WYMT) -
Update, 5/15/14

School officials in Martin County are moving forward with plans to build a new high school.

The school board is in the process of picking an architect to design the facility and finding the right place to build it.

Members of the Martin County school board spent Wednesday and Thursday listening to architects make their cases for why they should be chosen to design the new Sheldon Clark High School.

"We're going to have a school campus that's second to none in the state of Kentucky," superintendent Steve Meadows said. "It's a good time to buy stock in Martin County."

School officials want to spend at least $32 million on the facility. That money comes from revenues from a local tax as well as funding set aside by the state legislature.

Students and teachers at SCHS moved to the old Inez Middle School last year after safety concerns from nearby construction blasting forced them from their building.

"It's so small here and people sometimes run into me in the hallways. We won't have that any more," SCHS freshman Hope Lafferty said. "The drama club is going to get a new auditorium and that's exciting because we'll have more room to practice for our plays and stuff and not have to do it in the library."

Construction should be completed by summer 2016.

"It's very exciting for our kids and very exciting for our teachers and our staff," SCHS principal Robbie Fletcher said. "It's just a phenomenal opportunity for the people of Martin County."

School board members are considering offers from six architects to design the new school and hope to make a decision soon.

Three pieces of land have been identified by school administrators as possible sites for the new school, but they have not released the locations.
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UPDATE 8/1/13 10:55 p.m.

The doors of the only high school in Martin County will remain closed this school year.

The school board voted tonight to close it after concerns were raised that nearby blasting was too dangerous.

Officials say it was not an easy decision, and it is getting mixed reactions from people in the community.

Hundreds of people came supporting their school and supporting their kids.

"I hate that we have to lose Sheldon Clark. I hate that it has to come to this, but right now we're kind of in an emergency situation," said one concerned parent.

After hours of questions and concerns the school board made it clear they felt they had no choice but to close the doors of Sheldon Clark High School for the coming school year.

"When someone tells you they're going to let you take care of their child that's the highest compliment that you can have, and when somebody gives you that responsibility to take care of their child you have to make some tough decisions sometimes," said Dr. Robbie Fletcher, Sheldon Clark Principal.

While the gates will remain closed for the coming school year school officials say they are doing whatever they can to make this transition as easy as possible for the students.

"Our kids are resilient. We always talk about being ready. I don't know if you can ever be ready for this, but if there's anybody that could be it'll be the Sheldon Clark Cardinal kids," said Dr. Fletcher.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, but officials say those will come with time.

Their focus right now is getting the students into a safer environment away from construction blasting and out of a school that may not withstand it.

The high school students will now be at Inez Middle School.

The middle school students will all attend Warfield Middle School.

The first day of school has been moved back to August 21.

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UPDATE 7/31/13

The campus of Sheldon Clark High School is now closed because of safety concerns.

School officials are making plans to shut down the only high school in Martin County after nearly five decades.

The 'Do Not Enter' signs in front of Sheldon Clark High School held a different meaning Wednesday.

"We closed off the entire campus," said Martin County Superintendent Steven Meadows.

The building's structural integrity has been in question recently with many concerned blasting from a nearby construction site may be making cracks in the walls and floors worse.

Tuesday night another blast came.

"Just business as usual. The blasts go on all the time," said school janitor Mark Spence.

Earlier this week Mountain News got a look inside Sheldon Clark looking at some of those damages, but now the gates are locked and no one is allowed on school property because of Tuesday night's blast.

"It wasn't that bad. It didn't shake hard," said Spence.

It did send boulders down the hill behind the school, and with recent engineering reports claiming any blasts could weaken the structure school district officials wanted to act.

They are going forward with plans to close it down for the coming school year, all hinging on a formal vote from the school board Thursday night.

"I think this recent event has really brought some closure to what we need to do," said Meadows.

It is a vote that could leave the future of the only high school in Martin County at risk.

That vote will take place at 6:00 Thursday night at Inez Middle School.

Officials say as long as the vote goes through grades 9-12 will be moved to Inez Middle School.

Grades 6-8 will be in Warfield Middle School.

School was scheduled to start on August 7, but they plan to push it back at least one week.

Officials say all blasting has stopped at that site until further notice.

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ORIGINAL STORY 7/29/13

Less than two weeks before the first day of school the Martin County School Board is considering shutting down Sheldon Clark High School because of safety concerns.

Some feel the walls could cave in anytime.

With the first day of school set for August 7, many folks in Martin County are wondering if they will even have a high school to go to.

"The concerns that we have is due to the safety of the building primarily because of the age of the building, the original construction and design of the building," said Martin County Superintendent Steven Meadows.

Board members say what worries them are cracks in the walls of the school and some in the floors that they believe are getting worse because of road construction and blasting nearby.

The blasting is going on just on the other side of a mountain beside the school, and some school board members say if it continues the school is not structurally sound enough to be in.

Based on an engineering report done on the school, some board members believe it is a safety hazard at any time.

"If you read the report it said that the school could not, lacked the structural integrity, that if you had a significant seismic wind or blast event the school could possibly collapse," said School Board Member Gary Ball.

Now it comes to deciding if it is safe enough to keep open.

"We're going to have to make other plans. We're going to have to do something as far as I'm concerned," said Ball.

They all say with staff and student safety their number one priority a decision will have to come soon.

The superintendent says they do have a contingency plan to move students into another school, but they are still determining how they will handle that.

Board members say they will hold a meeting Thursday night to discuss the school's future.


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