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Idled Piedmont Elementary staffers get creative with downtime

Chris Dorst
Martha Pickens, a cook at Piedmont Elementary School, dips her paint roller in a bright yellow paint Thursday. Staff members volunteered to repaint the school's hallway and entryway after several days of downtime because of the Elk River chemical spill.
Chris Dorst
Teachers and staff volunteered to paint the hallway and entryway at Piedmont Elementary School on Thursday. Students have been kept home from school for the past five days because of the chemical spill that tainted the potable water supply, and staff members were growing antsy.
Chris Dorst
Cases of drinking water and peanut butter at Piedmont Elementary School await delivery by school staffers Thursday to families in their district affected by the chemical spill.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Teachers, cooks and other staff members of Piedmont Elementary School faced a fifth day without students Thursday. They wanted to do something more productive than sitting at home, some without access to clean water.@rag:That's why about a dozen staff members showed up to repaint the school's entry and main hallway from its previous cream color to a bright "fun yellow.""They say that the color yellow stimulates the mind," said Principal Beth Sturgill.Staff members have delivered bottled water, food and paper supplies to many families in their school district, Sturgill said. They spent the past few days flushing out the school's water pipes, planning lessons and straightening up the school building.With nothing left to do, staff members purchased paint and supplies Wednesday. Teachers didn't have to report to the school on Charleston's East End on Thursday, but about a dozen staff members did, anyway."Kanawha County Schools does a lot of painting," Sturgill said, "so we decided to help them out."Schools in Boone County will be closed Friday. So will Lincoln County High School and Hamlin PK-8 School, also in Lincoln County. Putnam County schools are expected to be open Friday. As of Thursday night, 49 of Kanawha County's near 70 schools were approved to be reopened.Of the 21 left, seven were in zones that hadn't been approved to use water yet, Superintendent Ron Duerring said at a school board meeting Thursday night."We're going to get there," Duerring said. "Our first concern was the safety of our kids and making sure that the protocol that was supposed to be followed was down to the letter."
While Duerring said he would prefer to open the district as a whole, a partial opening -- excluding those schools that are still under the water ban -- will happen on Tuesday if the schools are still not cleared, he said.Duerring also said that each school has plenty of clean water "for those kids who will need or want bottled water to drink."Martha Pickens, one of Piedmont's cooks, said the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department checked out the school's kitchen and approved it to reopen Tuesday.Several teachers still have do-not-use advisories at their homes.Kim Landers said she hasn't had access to clean water for about two days. Her house in Cross Lanes was finally approved to start flushing out water pipes Thursday.
"I'm excited to get home and take a shower," Landers said.Kanawha County students returned from a nine-day holiday break on Jan. 3, only to face more days off because of subzero temperatures. In the past two weeks, students have attended school for just four days, and one of those featured a two-hour weather delay. On Monday, students are off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.Sturgill said teachers are concerned for their students, many who had been without clean water for more than a week. She hopes they all are allowed to return Tuesday."We are just anxious to get back to the normal routine," she said. "We miss our kids."Staff writer Mackenzie Mays contributed to this report.Reach Travis Crum at or 304-348-5163.
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