December is a time for celebration and anticipation

As we begin the final stages of preparing the historic Kump house to serve as an education center, we have three basic problems to solve. Can we make an old private home into a public facility that will meet modern building codes? How will we balance requirements for historic preservation and for cutting-edge educational technology? How can an old governor’s home be used to improve the future of education in West Virginia?

At this point, we can celebrate the fact that skilled electricians have transformed the original electrical system with a new meter and new wiring while preserving the look of most historic electrical fixtures. Also, we can celebrate the fact that an excellent plumber connected two efficient gas boilers to the old hot-water radiators to restore heat to the building for the first time in 56 years. We anticipate that we will need to address ADA accessibility next.

How will we balance the requirements of historic preservation and need for more cutting-edge educational technology? At this point half of the funding that has been used to renovate Kump house has come from the State Historic Preservation Office and the DAR. The house has most of the furniture that was there when Eleanor Roosevelt visited there in the 1930s, but nobody expects to support the house as a museum.

According to the will of Mary G. Kump, she gave the house to the city of Elkins as a home for teachers and to serve educational purposes. Students from Davis & Elkins College are doing sustainability studies projects there, and Kump Education Center established the D&E teacher education professional development schools and research seminars. YMCA Day Campers attend summer science classes and boy and girl Scouts enjoy activities on the property. The Kump Education Center has provided mentoring for at-risk students in the public schools.

The final conundrum is how can an old governor’s home be used to improve the future of education in West Virginia? This riddle may be the hardest one to solve. The most important single factor in education is teacher quality and West Virginia teachers are among the lowest paid teachers in the United States. The Kump Education Center could become a place where teachers can meet together for professional encouragement, development, and inspiration, but we have to find the funding that will support such programs for the future.