Foundation funds school accessibility upgrades - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Foundation funds school accessibility upgrades

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PRINCETON, WV:   Mercer County Schools learned recently that the Hugh I. Shott Jr. Foundation would be providing the funds to improve handicap accessibility at Bluefield High School and the Bluefield Early Learning Center. 

A $79,000 Shott Foundation gift will fund the purchase and installation of a vertical lift at each of the two sites.  According to Kellan Sarles, Information Specialist, vertical lifts are small, self-enclosed elevators that attach to the exterior of the building but open only to the inside.  "Fire-rated doorway access would be cut through the building's exterior walls on the first and second floors through which users would enter the lift," she said.

According to County Maintenance Director Melvin Gregg, the most likely placement for the BHS lift would be just off the gymnasium.  At Cumberland Heights, users could access the lift from the second floor landing and from the first floor area just below.

Mercer County Superintendent Deborah Akers said the Shott Foundation's contribution is significant because it will allow handicapped students and teachers -- and those requiring short-term use of crutches and wheelchairs -- to quickly and more independently access all parts of the building. 

According to Principal Steve Hayes (ELC), the vertical lift will be a huge improvement over the old and poorly functioning chair lift.  At BHS, accessibility has been even more limited because a similar chair lift is no longer working at all.  Estimates for repairing the obsolete chair lift exceeded the cost of buying and installing a vertical lift. 

 Akers said the district took the project to the Shott Foundation because of the Foundation's history of contributing to the betterment of social and economic conditions in Bluefield and in the county at large.

 "We want to publicize the Foundation's huge contribution to these Bluefield schools," Akers said.  "Mr. Buzzy Wilkerson and his fellow Board members have been faithful allies through the years, providing the financial backing to achieve many goals of the school district and the community at large.  This project is just one more good example."

"They have never sought recognition," Akers said.  "Yet, so many improvements in the county can be traced back to Shott Foundation support."  
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