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State school board approves Fayette plan

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State school board approves Fayette plan
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Board of Education approved major changes in the facilities plan for the Fayette County school system Wednesday, putting the county on the path toward closures and consolidations.

The approval puts the county in prime position to receive funding from the state School Building Authority to begin implementing the plan.

“Throughout this nine-month process, we learned a lot about Fayette County,” said SBA Executive Director David Sneed, who was part of a 54-member community committee. “We implemented a data-driven planning process that allowed the data to guide us with the input of representatives from all areas of Fayette County.”

Tom Campbell was the only state school board member to vote against the plan.

“To base school decisions solely on data and curriculum is a mistake,” Campbell said.

A few dozen Fayette County residents spoke out before the vote. Not all were in favor of the changes.

Chuck Nunley, whose son attends Valley Middle School, voiced concerns about the possible shutdown of Valley High School. If that high school were to close, his son would be routed next year to Riverside High School in Kanawha County, where the district has experienced problems with air conditioning units.

“I mean you’re going to ship my son in a hot bus to a hot school for half-day and send him home? I mean, it really doesn’t make any sense,” he told MetroNews.

The new plan misrepresents the entire county, Nunley said. He lives in Smithers where parents and community members haven’t “had their voices heard.” He called for meetings with more public input on the plan.

“I don’t even think you can call it a proposal,” he said. “It’s more like a mandate that this is going to happen and that’s just the way it is.”

Nunley said he can’t support the plan because he feels like his part of the county is being marginalized.

“With us losing (WVU) Tech as well, that’s just really going to be a big blow to the community. There’s nothing really in the proposal that’s going to benefit really anyone except what’s on the plateau,” he said.

Amanda Skaggs, of Fayetteville, said there may be opposing sides within the community, but something needs to be done. She was there in support of the plan.

“Meadow Bridge and Valley (High Schools) oppose because, if this goes through, they’re going to lose their high schools and I understand that. My kids are losing their schools too, but if we keep going over and over trying to find the plan that’s going to be perfect and everybody’s happy, it will never happen,” she said. “Our schools are falling down.”

Skaggs has one child at Fayetteville High School and two at Gatewood Elementary. Those schools are at risk of being shutdown. Fayetteville High students would attend Oak Hill, while Gatewood would consolidate with Fayetteville Middle.

Skaggs has been pushing for SBA funding since last year when the authority denied the plan.

“It was very frustrating,” Skaggs said. “You just have to be patient and get through it. We’ve been working very closely with the SBA this time and hopefully we’ll get it funded.”

The plan approved includes:

– A new pre-K through second grade school built in Oak Hill

– The existing Oak Hill High School will be renovated to include Fayetteville High School’s grade nine through twelve students

– A new Collins Middle School will be constructed for grades six through grade eight

– The existing New River Elementary will be reconfigured to accommodate grades three through five

– The existing Fayetteville High School will be reconfigured to become a pre-K through eighth grade school

– A new Ansted/Divide Elementary will be constructed for grades pre-K through five

– The existing Midland Trail High School will become a middle/high school

– A new pre-K through eight school will be built at Meadow Bridge

– A portion of Meadow Bridge High students will be redistricted to Greenbrier West High School; remaining students will attend Midland Trail High School

– A portion of Valley High School students will be redistricted to Riverside High School in Kanawha County; remaining Valley High School students will attend Oak Hill High School

– The existing Valley High School will be reconfigured into a pre-K through eighth grade school

Funding for the first round of changes is expected to be announced Dec. 12. The Oak Hill elementary school project and Collins Middle School project will be the first two presented to the SBA.