Fayette parents lobby lawmakers for safer schools
By Pamela Pritt, (Beckley) Register-Herald Reporter
CHARLESTON — A group of Fayette County parents wearing orange T-shirts saying FUSE walked the halls of the State Capitol Monday talking with anyone who would listen about the state of the schools their children attend.
Fayette United for Safe Education scheduled meetings with the chairs of education in both chambers, Sen. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, and Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, but managed to talk to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin after the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in the rotunda.
FUSE mom Karen Ellis said the mission, which included a dozen Fayette County students, was not only to give legislative leadership a clear picture of Fayette's plight, but to try to ensure that no other counties find themselves in the same situation.
Collins Middle School students have been farmed out to other facilities because of conditions there, and the second floor of Meadow Bridge High School has been condemned, but voters refused to pass a bond issue because it involved consolidation and would leave the county with only two high schools.
Fayette County schools are caught in a power struggle between two state agencies, one of which has supported financial assistance from the state because the school system has been under state control for nearly seven years, and the other — the one with the purse — has refused any funding to help the county's building program.
Ellis said she supports bills introduced by Delegate Dave Perry, D-Fayette, which would require the State Board of Education members to be physically present at meetings instead of being able to attend by teleconference and limiting terms of School Building Authority members.
Ultimately, though, she wants just one thing.
"I want them to put our kids in safe schools," Ellils said. "I don't want to have to send my kid to school next year and worry if he's going to have running water for the day, if he's going to be able to use the bathroom. The parents that have children there right now worry about that every day."
Her son goes to Rosedale Elementary but will attend Collins next year. Parents of Collins students also have to worry about snow causing the roof to fail.
Ellis favors consolidation, but acknowledges it's not always the answer.
"I don't think consolidation is always 100 percent the answer," she said. "But here it is the answer. It's about being able to sustain, it's about longevity. We have to be able to do that."