MARTIN COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- One by one, students arrived to start the new school year in Martin County on Monday.
But for students who normally attend Sheldon Clark High School, it was back to middle school this year.
Earlier this month the high school building was closed for because of safety concerns.
"I'm finally glad that we have our kids in school. It's been a long time waiting," said Martin County Superintendent Steven Meadows.
Officials say the move was not an easy one that actually delayed the first day by three weeks.
"Our teachers worked very hard. I left here a lot of nights around 10:30-11:00, and there would still be teachers here," said Sheldon Clark Principal Dr. Robbie Fletcher.
Officials say there is a facilities plan in place that outlines a lot of work to be done to make the middle school building conducive to high school students, but they say while it may be a tight fit right now everyone is in the classrooms and ready to get the school year started.
"We're so excited about our kids being in the building, and everybody got in safely this morning. The first bell has rung, and the kids are in the classrooms. That's what we're looking for," said Meadows.
They say getting started Monday morning was all thanks to a lot of patience and help from the community.
"I think all of our students are ready to get rolling. I saw a lot of tweets last night from seniors, 'Let's make it the best senior year ever.' I'm very proud of them. The class of 2014 will do a phenomenal job," said Dr. Fletcher.
Inez Middle School students combined with Warfield Middle School.
District officials say the Inez Middle School building is being used as a drop off hub for those students who can be taken by bus to Warfield.
The board of education met Thursday night for a special meeting to make a final decision on whether to close Sheldon Clark High School and move students to a different building. Superintendent Steve Meadows said they are concerned for student and teacher safety because blasting and construction next to the school have caused debris and boulders to fall near school grounds. The most recent blast was Tuesday night.
“Because of the age of the building, the construction has really exacerbated the problem that already existed,” Meadows said. “The structure of the building wasn't designed to keep people safe or to keep us safe with dynamite going off within 100 feet of the building.”
The plan is to move approximately 600 high school (grades 9-12) students into Inez Middle School. The 400 middle school (grades 6-8) students who currently attend Inez Middle School will be moved to Warfield Middle School, according to Meadows. None of the elementary schools would be affected.
“We have to make sure that they're safe,” Meadows said. “Learning can't occur at high levels unless we can provide a safe environment.”
But Rhonda Muncy-Little, whose son Colby will be a freshman in high school, said the move concerns her.
“Like many parents, I’m depending on my child's high school education to get him a scholarship for college,” Muncy-Little said. “I don't want anything to jeopardize that."
She said that she believes the board will do what’s best for students’ safety, but she said she hopes nothing will be sacrificed in the process, such as honors classes.
“As a parent, I want to make sure not only that our children are safe, but that they're getting the same quality education,” Muncy-Little said.
Joyce Mills, whose daughter will be a senior, said while many of the students are upset about the move for sentimental reasons, she thinks this is more of a safety issue.
“She wants to continue to go to the high school and she wants to graduate from the high school,” Mills said. “I told her, you know, it is what it is. If there’s a safety hazard, then they’ll have to do what they need to do.”
With school originally scheduled to start Wednesday, August 7, Meadows said there could be delays in starting the school year. When asked about the cost of all this, he said the costs could be significant and acknowledged that some of that could fall on taxpayers.
“In public education today, every dollar counts. And we have to be very, very careful about how we spend our money,” Meadows said. “But what kind of price can you put on safety of a kid? One kid. One rock. One wall coming down, one light coming down, one ceiling panel coming down and hitting a kid.”
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"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 about blasting from a nearby construction site may be making cracks in the walls and floors worse.
School officials are now making plans to shut down the only high school in Martin County for the whole year.
The School Board is holding a special meeting Thursday night to vote on the closure.
That meeting is set for 6 p.m 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.
Some feel the walls could cave in at any time.
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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