Fayette superintendent urging support for new facilities plan
By Alex Wiederspiel, WV MetroNews
FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Terry George, the Fayette County superintendent of schools, believes a new Comprehensive Facilities Plan from the Fayette County Board of Education, working in conjunction with the School Building Authority, would have a much better chance of being adopted this fall following the rejection of last year’s plan.
Observers both inside and outside of the schools in Fayette County have long argued that the majority of the school facilities in Fayette County are suffering from crumbling infrastructure. State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano has said in the past that fixing these problems is a top priority for the State Board of Education–who adopted last year’s plan by a 6-3 vote before it was rejected by the School Building Authority.
The plan would close three high schools. Fayetteville High School, Meadow Bridge High and Valley High. Students from Meadow Bridge would have two options: attend Midland Trail High School just outside of Ansted or attend Greenbrier West High School outside of the county.
“We didn’t decide which schools were going to be taken off line until we decided how we were going to assign the curriculum that would be developed at each of the schools,” Superintendent Terry George said.
Additionally, the new plan as presented would close Ansted Middle School, Ansted Elementary, Divide Elementary, Fayetteville Elementary, Gatewood Elementary, Meadow Bridge Elementary, Mount Hope Elementary, Rosedale Elementary, and Valley Elementary.
“I think it works out to where the School Building Authority would be hopefully contributing about 12 million dollars for two years,” George said.
Oak Hill would receive a new school for pre-kindergarten through second grade. New River Elementary School would expand to include third, fourth, and fifth grade students. A brand new Collins Middle School would include sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students.
Students from Fayetteville High School would move to the Oak Hill facility. Fayette High School would become a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade facility. Valley High School students would have two options: redistrict to Riverside High in Kanawha County or attend the Oak Hill facility. Valley High would eventually become a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade facility.
Additionally, Midland Trail High School would add middle school students. A new Ansted/Divide Elementary School would also be built.
“All these projects are based on approximately a ten year cycle,” George said. “None of these things are going to happen overnight. It will take several different projects to bring all of these projects together.”
Fayette County Commission President Matthew Wender served on the 54-person committee that provided input to the SBA and Board of Education, but said he felt that the committee’s recommendations went unheard.
“We have developed a plan for you,” Wender said regarding last week’s meeting where the consolidation proposal was unveiled. “Here’s what it is. They took minimal amount of questions–virtually no comments.”
Wender said he had a number of concerns with the plan–including the loss of several hundred students who would be redistricted to schools outside of Fayette County.
“I think somewhere between 350 and 400 students from our county will probably be going to schools in other counties,” he said. “Of course, those funds from the School Aid Formula will follow those students to other counties, and I assume that our Board of Education will also have to subsidize the cost of educating those children in schools outside the county.”
Additionally, Wender felt that the SBA had simply used the committee to try and portray the county’s support for the plan.
“We were told from the beginning not to worry about the money,” he said. “Just, what is the best proposal that we can come up with for the delivery of education to our children?”
Similarly to the plan that was rejected in 2015, Meadow Bridge High School will close. That point drew enormous protests from the Meadow Bridge Community, which is geographically isolated by comparison to much of the rest of the county.
“We can not adopt the curriculum they’ve recommended at the schools based upon the number of students,” Terry George said.
Wender made it clear that the process had been difficult for every community–knowing that they could lose a school without promise of a new one being built.
“Clearly, each community wanted everything for each school that they had,” he said. “No community wanted to give up their school. No community wanted to get on a bus and ride somewhere else. That was to be expected.”
George said another public meeting would be held in the next few weeks to unveil the cycles ten-year plan.
It’s uncertain which projects would be prioritized first when the county submits their official needs request and Comprehensive Facilities Plan amendment in October.
A small group of Fayette County citizens also have a lawsuit pending against the School Building Authority–claiming that the SBA has failed to uphold their obligation to the county in providing funds to fix the school facilities.
The CFP amendment is the second in as many years following another failed school bond levy vote in July 2015.