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New middle school nears completion

Jun. 18, 2013 @ 06:55 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Frank Barnett gets excited each time he visits the new Huntington East Middle School, which he'll lead as principal next year.

He said he comes to the site, between Norway Avenue and U.S. 60 just east of Walmart, every seven to 10 days just to check on the progress.

"It gets closer every day," he said recently during a tour of the new facility that will consolidate Enslow and Beverly Hills middle schools. "There's something else prepared every time you go in."

The project is about 80 percent complete, said Mike O'Dell, assistant superintendent over Operations for Cabell County Schools. The area closest to completion, and one of the highlights of the school, is a gymnasium that includes a long row of glass windows designed to let in natural light.

The gym floor is in, complete with the Huntington East Bears name and logo at center court. Also unique to the school is the steel bleachers with purple seats attached, another asset to help build unity and pride at the new school.

Barnett said that will be key next year, particularly because the school won't open until January. During the fall semester, the school system will send sixth- and seventh-graders to Enslow -- to be known as the Highlawn campus -- while Beverly Hills will host eighth-graders and be called the Saltwell campus.

Barnett also has custodians and a paint crew at both of the existing schools repainting areas with the new school colors, and new signage will be visible for the start of the new school year in early August.

He said he's most excited about the educational opportunities that will come with the $23 million school, which is certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. That includes a composter to reuse food waste and computer monitoring stations to show energy usage. A white rubber material also was used for the roof, which will help reflect light and keep the school cooler in the warmer months.

The hallways and cafeteria also have cloud lighting, which are designed to be both aesthetic and reduce noise.

Barnett also has purchased a solar-powered greenhouse that will allow students to bring the Farm to School program to the middle school, and each science wing will have its own herb garden.

The school also was designed with plenty of windows to maximize natural light. Classrooms, O'Dell said, have sensors that automatically adjust the lighting based on how much sunlight is flowing into the room.

The school will have close to 800 students.