UPDATE: Ground broken at site of new Highlawn Elementary School

Published: Oct. 18, 2016 at 11:01 PM EDT
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UPDATE 12/12/18 @ 11:05 p.m.

School leaders broke ground Wednesday at the site of the new Highlawn Elementary School.

It will be built on the site of the old Enslow Middle School on Collis Avenue. In addition to offering students a positive learning environment, school leaders hope the state of the art school will play a key role in the city's effort to revitalize the Highlawn neighborhood.

"A lot of room for growth, a lot of room for possibilities," Highlawn Principal Robin Harmon said. "For years they've seen other new schools, they've wondered why we haven't had a school. We knew our time would come and we are absolutely thrilled."

The demolition of the old Enslow Middle School and the rebuilding of the brand new school is expected to cost $12 million.

UPDATE 12/11/17 @ 5:25 p.m.

Highlawn Elementary students and staff can look forward to a new school building in the not too distant future.

That was after the West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) on Monday approved Cabell County Schools’ proposal for the construction of a new school.

It will be built near the existing school, on the site of the former Enslow Middle School.

“We are thrilled that the members of the School Building Authority have approved the Highlawn project,” Cabell County Schools Superintendent Ryan Saxe said in a release. “Not only will the new facility offer Highlawn students the same sort of positive learning environment students at other facilities are receiving; but this state-of-the-art school will also play a key role in the City of Huntington’s efforts to reconnect and revitalize the Highlawn neighborhood.”

According to the release, the SBA matched Cabell County’s proposed local contribution of more than $6.6 million, allowing the district a total of nearly $13.2 million to demolish the existing Enslow building and to construct the new school.

The district will receive the funds over a two-year cycle, with $4,144,732 coming in the first year, and the remaining $2,473,807 the second year.

“I am over-the-top ecstatic,” Highlawn Elementary Principal Robin Harmon said in the release. “We were dancing in the hallways when we heard the new school had been approved. When I first announced the news over the intercom, everyone in the building started cheering.”

Harmon went on to say, “The new school is going to offer state-of-the-art opportunities for students and will help open doors to the future for the Highlawn community.”

UPDATE 10/19/16 @ 5:53 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Some neighbors in Huntington are excited about the possibility of replacing a century-old vacant school building with a new elementary school. In the process, they hope to remove drugs and other criminal activity and replace it with kids and education.

Cabell County school administrators hope to have some answers in as little as a month.

Enslow school, a once beautiful building, is now beyond repair. It’s been vacant for so long, a tree grows in the bricks over a door. Instead of the principal's parking spot, neighbors like Marsha Wagers say others come.

"There's been drug dealing, there's been prostitution, there's been many sexual encounters," she said.

Wagers has lived next door to Enslow Middle School in Huntington's Highlawn neighborhood for more than 30 years. Built 99 years ago, it closed in 2013.

"The neighborhood children play here,” she said. “We need to keep it safe."

Now, school officials say they want to demolish the building and build a new Highlawn Elementary School on the spot.

"We're excited about it," Wagers said.

"I think it's really good for the community and the area,” adds neighbor Jack Lefevre. “Putting a new building in there, it can only do things like bring up the property values."

The current Highlawn Elementary is two blocks away. It was finished in 1951. School officials hope once the new building is complete, they'll be able to sell the property.

"I would love to see that become a senior complex for Highlawn," Wagers said.

For her, the idea is a decade in the making. She started attending school board meetings in 2006 -- first to save Enslow from closing, then to make sure it doesn't continue to languish as an abandoned eyesore. Now, that effort seems to be worth it, both for her and her neighbors.

"The sooner the better for our neighborhood,” she said. “We all look forward to it."

Next month, Cabell school officials will request a 50 percent match of funding from the state's school building authority. They tell us they're confident they will be successful.

The preliminary price tag for demolition and rebuilding is $12 million.

ORIGINAL STORY 10/18/16 @ 11 p.m.

CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The possibility of a new school building was discussed Tuesday night during a Cabell County Board of Education meeting.

The current Highlawn Elementary is located along 1st Avenue, about a block from the Enslow Middle School Building which hasn't been used since 2013.

The new Highlawn Elementary School would be built at the former Enslow Middle School site. Officials say the plan is to tear down Enslow Middle School and start from scratch.

“We want to be a good neighbor and we don't want the community to have an eyesore or a place where folks can gather for vandalism and other activities that are unwanted,” said Assistant Superintendent James Colegrove.

For the project to move forward, Cabell School officials need approval of an application for a needs project grant.