First projects in Fayette consolidation plan funded
By Ryan Quinn, The Charleston Gazette-Mail
The state School Building Authority’s board voted Monday to provide $22.6 million for the first two major projects of Fayette County’s possibly decade-long school consolidation plan: building a new Collins Middle for that school’s displaced students and a new prekindergarten-through second-grade school in the Oak Hill area.
The SBA board’s vote puts it and the state Board of Education — which has controlled Fayette’s public school system since 2010, when it stripped power from the county’s locally elected board members — both publicly behind the same Fayette consolidation plan. Majorities on the two boards were previously divided over the Fayette issue after the SBA board refused last year to support a previous state school board-backed consolidation plan.
The new plan is to drop the number of Fayette public schools from 18 to 11, change various schools’ grade configurations and preserve only two existing high schools, Oak Hill and Midland Trail, although Midland Trail would become a sixth- through 12th-grade school.
The plan says construction of the new Collins and the pre-k second-grade school, both intended to open in August 2019, will allow for New River Elementary to be converted into a school for third- through fifth-graders and allow for the closing of Rosedale and Mount Hope elementaries.
Peter Markham, the SBA board chairman and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s designee on the board, recommended Fayette for funding when individual board members each got a chance to make recommendations. Out of the 11 board members, only Bill White, who’s also on the state school board, voted “no” in the single voice vote to approve a total of $48.8 million from this year’s funding cycle for Fayette and 14 other counties.