West Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind receives upgrades from Innovative Readiness Training
By Airman 1st Class Mercedee Schwartz, 124th Fighter Wing
/ Published August 13, 2018
GOWEN FIELD, Idaho -- With record-breaking rainfall throwing a wrench in the construction timeline, members of the 124th Fighter Wing, Civil Engineer Squadron at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho, worked hard in an effort to finish the renovation of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in Romney, West Virginia, through the Innovative Readiness Training program.
The WVSDB is a 79-acre campus established in 1870 and was specifically dedicated to students who are deaf, blind, hard-of-hearing, low-vision and both deaf and blind. In the past 148 years, more than 4,800 students have received quality and specialized education here.
With buildings dating back to the 1840s there were many issues with the structural integrity, handicap accessibility and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. Luckily with the help of the IRT program, these issues are being resolved.
The IRT program was created in 1992 as part of the Rebuild America program as a way to provide mission-essential training and create military-civilian relationships by contributing to civil-society needs through volunteerism.
The planning process took over a year after the selection of the WVSDB to make sure the plans, materials and necessary permits and licensing were in place in time for project execution, said Master Sgt. Mitchell Sisco, the IRT construction manager from the 148th Fighter Wing, 138th CES from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“The Air National Guard was the lead service for the IRT program at the WVSDB and had rotations of Air Force Reserves and Marine Corps Reserves with roughly 170 engineers,” said Sisco. “We get great, quality, real-world construction training and our community partner gets an excellent product when we’re done.”
Projects at the WVSDB include Keller Hall, the student dormitory which houses kids ages 3 to 11, where there are four ADA compliant bathrooms being installed, as well as a commercial kitchen and wheelchair accessible doorways and ramps to improve the quality of life for the students, said Sisco.
Other upgrades on the WVSDB campus include adding wheelchair ramps, creating parking lots and demolishing a condemned building that pose a danger to staff and students.
Although the IRT program plans fell behind due to weather delays, the 124th CES was able to not only catch up, but far exceed what they were expected to complete during their rotation, said Capt. Theodore Moyer, the project officer in charge from the 124th FW, 124th CES, at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho.
“Work from the IRT program improves space and creates a safer, healthier environment,” said Mark Gandolfi, the WVSDB superintendent.
Gandolfi said without help from the IRT program the improvements that are being made would have never been possible.
“With the partnership with the IRT program, we will be able to take this school to the next level,” said Gandolfi.