The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 30, 2013

Change of heart?

State superintendent says if Fayette County wants smaller community schools, it should have them; Bond to fix existing facilities could be on November ballot


FAYETTEVILLE — A new direction

The recent turn of events is a radical shift from what the state has been telling Fayette County for years — that it has too many schools that it can’t afford.

The performance audit that led to state takeover concluded that an extended period of deferred maintenance had brought the county’s buildings to such a deteriorated state that the amount of work to improve them would be “insurmountable.”

“The direction up until now has been to go against the need to keep schools in communities and to follow the lead of many other school districts by consolidating schools to provide a better education,” says Butcher. “And this is a different direction, but we will be asking the voters if this is a direction they agree with.”

Some of the work of closing schools has already been accomplished, with the recent shuttering of Mount Hope High School, Gauley Bridge High School, Nuttall Middle, and Danese Elementary.

The 2010 state audit also called on the county to create a new 10-year Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP) to improve student performance.

The county’s current CEFP would whittle five high schools to three, closing Meadow Bridge and Fayetteville high schools. A new high school would be built in a central location to serve current students of Fayetteville, Meadow Bridge, and Midland Trail.

It calls for three middle schools: a new one in Oak Hill, a new one in a converted Midland Trail High School, and Valley Middle School.

This fall’s bond call and the SBA request would not address any of these steps.

“Maybe we could address that in the future, but that would not be a part of this particular effort this fall,” says Butcher.  

He says the purported goal of the bond — improving facilities — is not outside the current facilities plan.

McClung calls the current CEFP “extremely defective” and says that will be “proven in court if necessary.”

Arritt is from Meadow Bridge and McClung lives nearby in rural Summers County. They have long advocated for small, community schools in Fayette County.

They and their allies have been primarily responsible for litigation against the county over school closure in the past.

McClung says that he and Meadow Bridge Citizens for Community Schools were planning to litigate the CEFP, along with the state takeover, before this new change of plans.

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