The McDowell Vocational School is an abandoned vocational school in McDowell County, West Virginia.
The McDowell County Vocational School, constructed at the cost of $120,000 4 in 1945 1 and opened in January 1946, 4 was designed to give students the opportunity to learn electrical and mechanical skills. 1 It offered training in 11 different workshop areas, including Mine Machinery Repair, Radio & Television Servicing, General Street Metal Practice, General Machine Shop Practice, Welding, Automotive Engine Mechanics, Mill & Cabinet, Carpentry, Drafting & Blueprint Reading, Plumbing & Pipe Fitting, and Electricity. Up to 300 students spent three hours a day in the vocational school and three hours studying academic subjects.
To be admitted to the vocational school full-time, students had to attend a nine-week summer session, being rotated through the various departments, to determine where the student shows the most aptitude at. 1 Students who completed the program often had high-paying jobs with an acceptance rate in the industry of over 90%.
In 1959, the vocational school’s ambitions were expanded with the introduction of a job training program to give new skillsets to unemployed coal miners. 1 The plan, introduced in the state Legislature, was to be expanded to other vocational schools across the state. 1 3
In late December 1965, the County School Board approved a $1.2 million bid by Court Construction Company of Kimball for the construction of a new vocational education facility. 2 The project was financed by a $1 million local bond issue and a $1 million federal Area Redevelopment Administration grant. After it was completed, the c. 1945 facility continued to be used into the 1990s.
As part of going building consolidations in McDowell County, the vocational school (today’s McDowell County Career and Tech Center) will be relocated to a converted Fall River Elementary. 5
- Photography of the Vocational School by Jamie Middleton
- Blizzard, William C. “School of the Third Freedom.” Sunday Gazette-Mail, [Charleston], 14 Feb. 1960, p. D-1.
- “McDowell Approves Bid on Vocational School.” Raleigh Register [Beckley], 29 Dec. 1965, p. 2.
- “Consol Official Cites Pollution As Foremost Problem for 1970’s.” Register and Post-Herald [Beckley], 16 May 1970, p. 10.
- “News Briefs the World Over.” Independent-Herald [Hinton], 23 Jan. 1946, p. 4.
- Rivas, Kaitlyn. “McDowell County planning for school consolidation.” Fox19, 17 Mar. 2021.