The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 13, 2013

State may nix Meadow Bridge consolidation plan

FAYETTE COUNTY SCHOOLS

By Cody Neff
Register-Herald Reporter

ROMNEY — The Fayette County Board of Education’s plan to consolidate three high schools could come up one short.

While meeting in Romney Wednesday, state Board of Education President Gayle Manchin proposed that Meadow Bridge High School be removed from Fayette’s plan for consolidation.

As written, the Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan (CEFP) would combine several schools and upgrade others. Meadow Bridge High School would be combined with Midland Trail and Fayetteville high schools in a newly constructed “state-of-the-art” facility.

“Every school is unique and that is especially true for Meadow Bridge High School as it is located at the eastern edge of Fayette County,” said Manchin. “Meadow Bridge has its own set of challenges and opportunities. Our job as board members is to provide the best education for each student. At this time, we believe removing Meadow Bridge from county closure plans is the right thing to do.”

According to state officials, several Fayette County residents came to the meeting in Hampshire County and spoke to defend Meadow Bridge.

“They said they believed the school should continue to stay open and operate in its current capacity,” said Liza Cordeiro, executive director of the state Department of Education’s Communications Office. “After the delegations, one of the posted items was supposed to be the discussion of Fayette County. That’s when our board president proposed to the board to take Meadow Bridge off or out of the CEFP consolidation plan.”

Taking Meadow Bridge out of the plan isn’t guaranteed yet. The state board has to vote at its next meeting to officially remove it from the consolidation plan.

Cordeiro said the board also asked Fayette County Superintendent Keith Butcher to do a study over the next year to determine how the education needs of the students in the Meadow Bridge attendance area may be best served. That would include looking into the option of Meadow Bridge students going across county lines to either Greenbrier West or Summers County high schools.

Not everyone is thrilled about the idea of crossing county lines for an education, though.

“I’m not crazy about the idea for two different reasons,” Meadow Bridge parent Mistie Richmond said. “It’s still a distance. The travel time from Meadow Bridge to Greenbrier West High School is 25 minutes by car. When you take into account buses and that they have to pick up kids, plus there are a lot of kids who come from Backus Mountain Road, those kids are already on the bus for 45 minutes. If you add another 25 minutes, the kids will be on the bus for an hour or an hour-and-a-half.

“The other thing is that Meadow Bridge is a success school. Considering that we’re a success school and that they would ask us, ‘Well, you have options of going to schools that are still farther away and they are not as good,’ doesn’t help my child’s education. I’m not too crazy about the idea. We’re going to try to fight to stay open.”

If Meadow Bridge students transfer to Summers County, they would find a warm welcome waiting on them.

“We would welcome the additional students in Summers County,” BOE Superintendent Vicki Hinerman said. “We would need some time to plan, depending on how many students were coming our way, but we would welcome everyone and I think we could accommodate them.”

Superintendent Butcher was out of the office Thursday and unavailable for comment. Greenbrier Superintendent Sallie Dalton did not return a phone call.

The next regular meeting of the West Virginia State Board of Education will be on Oct. 9 in Charleston.

Fayette County Schools came under state control in 2010 following an Office of Education Performance Audit (OEPA) recommendation. As part of a county review, the OEPA found financial, personnel, curriculum and facilities issues.

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com