The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 8, 2013


School system needs to establish a plan once and for all

— No direction.

Not a good situation to be in when you’re heading toward a destination, especially when children are involved.

Yet that is where it seems the Fayette County Schools system is stuck.

Facilities are not up to par. They haven’t been for many years.

With every year that’s gone by, the situation has gotten much worse.

When that’s the case, students suffer.

Perhaps Dr. James Phares summed it up best Monday at a Fayette County Board of Education meeting when he stated: “Resources are limited and the needs are great.”

A report presented at Monday’s meeting put the cost of bringing all current facilities up to code at about $136 million, almost double the county’s bonding capacity. The total soared from the $122 million announced at Monday’s meeting after a math error was found in the architect’s report

It looks to be time to consider all options more closely, including consolidation.

The argument for maintaining all schools is to preserve communities. That’s a noble point, and one worth fighting for with every fiber of one’s being.

But communities that “lose” a school might benefit in other ways.

An upgraded educational experience for the next generation that a new consolidated high school would offer, would be the most obvious benefit.

Former school buildings could be used for a host of things in areas that need a boost already, including community centers, health care clinics, recreational facilities and maybe even retail outlets.

We suggest looking at the School of Harmony, housed in the former Shady Spring Junior High building in Beaver, for inspiration and ideas.

Phares, the state superintendent of schools, says he hasn’t endorsed any particular path for improvement.

He wants to hear from the folks in Fayette County.

Oak Hill High School will have its meeting on the subject at 6 p.m. Monday in its auditorium. Other schools are expected to have their meetings before May 18.

We suggest attending and letting your voice be heard.

But more importantly, bring ideas. There has not been a deficiency of passion with this issue. But there has been a shortage of productive plans.

“There’s no directive to do anything other than find out what this community wants to do,” Phares promises. “I wanted them to put together a process that would lead them to some level of clarity that the board could look at and say, ‘This is what we need to do.’

“My goal is that if we can get this issue resolved and bring the board and community together on facilities in Fayette County, that we can begin to move toward Fayette County taking ownership of their school system again.”

This is your time, Fayette County.

There is much promise attached to your future.

That’s why this issue is critical for your ultimate destiny.