BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Back in December of 2019, the School Building Authority was unable to fully fund the project of a new building for Stratton Elementary in Beckley.
However, on Friday, Governor Jim Justice traveled to Beckley to announce that the SBA is going to use their leftover funding to grant the $8.9 million needed for the $17 million-dollar building.
Among Governor Justice were other state officials, delegates and dignitaries, but it was Madrith Chambers who stole the show.
She was on the Beckley Common Council for years, and she’s been a longtime advocate for a new school building in her community.
In the room, she was the oldest graduate of what the building originally was: Stratton High School. And she carries with her the history the building holds.
“It was an all-black school. And I was here until 1954 when I graduated,” Chambers said.
It was high school, a middle school and it has been an elementary school, but because it is an older building, one half does not have air conditioning and there are not a lot of capabilities for state-of-the-art equipment and technology.
This is why securing the funding for the new school was a huge milestone not just for the school itself but for the entire area of East Beckley.
“So many times, we neglect a need that we should step up and do,” Governor Justice said. “And today, thank God, we’re not doing that.”
The new school will be built behind the current one on the football field and the original will be torn down.
The new State Board of Education President Miller Hall, a Raleigh County native who also went to school at Stratton, says the new school will create a much needed sense of pride for the area and a great learning environment for the kids.
“And to be able just be able for the community it to drive by and see this wonderful new school, it should bring about pride, help our younger kids to bring up our test scores, so that they can go up because now they’ve got an opportunity to have what everybody else has,” Hall said.
And for Chambers, she says her goal is to live long enough to make it to the ribbon cutting ceremony when the new school is finally open, but for now, she’s celebrating this much-anticipated moment.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for several years. Several years. And now it is has come to light and I’m just as happy as I want to be,” Chambers said.