CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A "teacher village" is in the works in McDowell County as part of a five-year initiative to rescue the county's schools.Reconnecting McDowell plans to convert a five-story building in Welch that formerly was a furniture store and a warehouse into apartments for teachers. Amenities will include TV lounges, exercise rooms, a restaurant and group work areas.Bob Brown with Reconnecting McDowell discussed the project with the state Board of Education last week, the Charleston Daily Mail reported in Monday's editions.Plans call for 20 to 25 loft and multi-room apartments. If all the apartments are not filled by teachers, other people might be given an opportunity to live there.The project is expected to be completed in August 2013.Brown said the project would give teachers another option in an area where housing is scarce. It also could be used as a tool to recruit teachers in the future.
"You can't take someone who has a social life . . . and put them in a trailer on top of a mountain," Brown told the board.Welch Mayor Reba Honaker said the project also could help revitalize the city."I think it'll give Welch the shot in the arm it was looking for," Honaker said.McDowell County's school system has been under state control since 2001. The state handed back such areas as finances and the school calendar to county officials in 2010.Reconnecting McDowell, a public-private venture led by the American Federation of Teachers, is aimed at saving the county's schools and their students from failure, and addressing underlying community issues.