CHARLESTON, W.Va. Faculty and staff at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (WVSDB) are preparing for students to return to campus next week after the restoration of key services and utilities is completed over the coming days. A fire destroyed the schools’ landmark Administration Building and the servers housed at the site. The cause is undetermined according to a statement released by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which led the investigation, worked closely with the State Fire Marshal over the past week.
The fire was reported at the Administration Building early on the morning of Saturday, February 26, 2022. Servers that powered utilities including Internet, telephone service and security camera surveillance were damaged and required extensive restorative work. No one was injured during the fire, and the building was a total loss. Students, who were away from campus and at their homes for their weekend break at the time of the fire, remained at home and were moved to remote learning this week.
“This was more than a building to the school and the community, it was a part of the culture and tradition, and it is a significant loss to everyone,” said State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “However, once again, I witnessed numerous examples of community pride and compassion. It was inspiring to see the response of so many agencies, organizations, community members and individuals from around the country who stepped into action and showed concern in a number of ways.”
“We will continue to work with our students and staff during this time of recovery,” said West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) President Miller Hall. “We are eager for our students to return to campus so that their school year and activities can continue. We are mindful that things will be different on campus right now, and we appreciate the teachers, administrators and staff who will be even more vigilant in addressing the needs of our children. We will be there to support them in these endeavors.”
Additional social-emotional supports are in place for students, faculty and staff who may be affected by the tragedy.
The Administration Building was among the oldest structures on campus dating back to the 1800s. The building was vacant and not being used at the time of the fire. All offices and personnel once housed in the building were relocated to other spaces on campus late last year. Additionally, a comprehensive inventory began last summer, and the historical contents were cataloged at that time.
School facilities used by students have undergone numerous repairs and improvements over the past year, and projects are ongoing. The Hampshire County Sheriff’s Department will increase patrols around the area until the scene is secured with fencing.
“The Governor’s Office, State Fire Marshals’ office, ATF, Frontier Communications, local fire departments and law enforcement, as well as many community members and individuals, are credited with their swift response. The WVBE and Department of Education sincerely appreciate the collaborative efforts involved,” said Superintendent Burch.
For media inquiries, contact Christy Day, West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications, at 304-558-2699 or Christy.Day@k12.wv.us.