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Coal mining damages Sand Hill Elementary

January 5, 2011
By J.W. Johnson Jr./The Intelligencer

DALLAS - Students scheduled to return to Sand Hill Elementary School later this month may have to wait a little longer, as Marshall County Schools officials said the building was damaged by coal mining beneath the property.

In November, the 56 students and their teachers relocated to Hilltop Elementary School to allow Consol Energy Inc. to mine around the Sand Hill building. The mining, which was originally scheduled to begin Sept. 1, was delayed until later in the month. As crews approached the building, the students were moved to ensure their safety. Workers were scheduled to be done with work near the school by about the middle of January, when engineers from Consol and the district would inspect the school and determine its safety before allowing students to return.

Although crews have already passed the school building with their mining operations, Marshall County Superintendent Fred Renzella said a tentative report from Consol indicates there is some cracking in the block structure of the school. The front door of the building also has been damaged, along with the surrounding structure.

"They have seen a number of stress cracks throughout the corners of the building," Renzella said Monday, adding he had not yet received the report in writing.

Once the written report is received and reviewed, the district will send its own contractors to verify the findings. Following verification, crews will determine the extent of the damage and decide who will do any repairs that are needed. Until then, school officials and students must wait for word on how long they will remain at Hilltop Elementary School.

"Until we get the official report from Consol, we are in a hold pattern," Renzella said.

Renzella noted November's transition went well, and he has heard no complaints from parents.

"When we had our initial meeting with the PTA, everyone was extremely neighborly and welcoming," he said.

He added that the principal at Hilltop, Cindy McCutcheon, was the principal at Sand Hill just a year ago, which made the transition for students and teachers much easier.

"She knows the parents well, and they have faith and trust in her and are assured their children are receiving a good education," he said.

Although it was not in the original plan, Renzella said the district is prepared to use Hilltop as the main school for all involved students until the Sand Hill building is deemed safe.

After finishing work at the site later this month, crews are expected to return this summer to mine a panel on the other side of the building. Students will be on summer vacation during that phase of mining.

Consol spokeswoman Lynn Manning declined to comment Monday, saying the company will issue a statement on the situation at Sand Hill at a later date.



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