Consolidation isn’t the answer in W.Va.
The proponents of consolidation in Fayette County say that new schools with larger enrollments are the answer to all the problems plaguing the school system. Schools that meet economies of scale reduce the cost of educating students, making the system more efficient. This is the myth that is being spun by some in our county.
In reality, the research conducted in West Virginia by Rural School and Community Trust shows that consolidations significantly increase transportation cost to the point the counties’ school systems slash funding in other areas. Parents and students report that the long bus rides leave students exhausted and negatively impact grades.
Another aspect of consolidation that needs to be considered is extracurricular activities. The pro-consolidation camp will tell you that students will have more school clubs and sports teams to choose from, and the participation rate will be similar to that of smaller schools. Again the reality of the situation is drastically different. Longer bus rides, on average 43 percent longer after consolidation, coupled with larger numbers trying out for activities actually lead to lower participation rates in extracurricular activities. This is according to research conducted by L. Jimerson in 2007 in West Virginia.
These activities are critical to the development of our children. Coaches and club sponsors spend a great deal of time teaching students how to work together for a common goal, learning that personal sacrifice will lead to being part of something that is bigger than themselves. In many cases, being a member of a team or club serves as motivation for a student to attend school and maintain good grades. This is an opportunity many will not have in larger consolidated schools.
Extracurricular activities complement the curriculum to produce graduates who are productive members of society, and strive make a positive impact on all aspects of life.
The bottom line is that consolidation is not the answer in West Virginia. Consolidation leads to longer bus rides, lower grades, less participation in extracurricular activities, and greater transportation costs, which leads to cutting funding in other areas of education. Research conducted in this state in 2002 and 2007 points this out.
It’s time Fayette County stepped up and did what is best for our young people; keep our community schools open.