Boone County looks to close one-third of its elementary schools
By Jeff Jenkins, MetroNews
MADISON, W.Va. — Three small elementary schools in Boone County will be the subject of separate school closing hearings this month.
Plans are to close Wharton, Nellis and Jeffrey-Spencer schools because of an eroding tax base and reduced enrollment, Boone County School Superintendent John Hudson said.
Most of the financial problems are connected to the downturn in the coal industry, according to Hudson.
“We’re anticipating about a $5.9 million funding loss in the last couple of years coming through with what we project for this year,” he said.
Student enrollment is also down about 200 in the same time period.
Boone County currently has 10 elementary schools. Hudson said they’ve been thankful over the years to be able to keep that many small schools open. He credits a strong tax base created by the coal industry along with a regular levy and excess levy.
“We’ve been very fortunate. However, it just has come at a time when we can’t operate them efficiently with our current funding,” he said.
Consolidations usually bring on travel time concerns but that’s not the case in Boone County. Nellis Elementary is only four miles from Ashford-Rumble Elementary and Jeffrey-Spencer Elementary is only four miles from Ramage Elementary. Wharton Elementary is nine miles from Van Elementary.
“We won’t even have to request a waiver from the (state) Department of Education,” Hudson said. “It will be well within the time frame that’s allowable for elementary students.”
Ashford-Rumble, Ramage and Van schools will be able to handle the additional students in current space, Hudson said. The new student enrollment numbers will be around 200 for two of the schools, Hudson said.
The following is the school closing hearing schedule:
Nov. 2 Wharton Elementary in the school gym, 6 p.m.
Nov. 9 Nellis Elementary in the school gym, 6 p.m.
Nov. 19 Jeffrey-Spencer Elementary in the school gym, 6 p.m.
The Boone County Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the school closings sometime in December. They will take effect in the fall 2016 school year.