The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 21, 2013

Meadow Bridge school defended

Opinions shared on facilities plan

By Cody Neff
Register-Herald Reporter

MEADOW BRIDGE — With their school eliminated from Fayette County’s Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan, the people of Meadow Bridge are getting the chance to think about the state of things.

One student of Meadow Bridge High School says she went to a larger school for a little while, but didn’t like it.

“I went to Woodrow (Wilson High School) in Beckley,” 11th-grader Hayley Wingerd said. “I went there last year ... and I didn’t like it so I had to come home where I belong. I think Meadow Bridge is so much better. The sense of family is better here.   

“Where our school is so small, you really feel like these people are your family. When you’re going to a really big school, it’s easier just to get lost. You don’t have the teachers that really care about you. They seem like they just want you to do your work and then they’re done with you. The teachers here actually care about your home life and how you’re feeling. They’re constantly trying to help me in some way, both inside and outside of school.”

Wingerd says she feels like kids would lose everyone they have if the school closed because it would be like the loss of a family.

“When your family is separated, like in a divorce, if they married someone else that had kids, then that’s a totally different family,” Wingerd said. “That’s a totally different family because it’s not yours anymore. It’s shared with everybody else and you feel like you don’t have your family back. It’s just not the same.

“Don’t get me wrong, I did have friends when I went to Woodrow,” she added. “They actually wanted to listen to what I had to say. They actually made plans with you outside of school. They wanted to know how you were doing and how you felt about things. People here, where we’re so together all the time we get irritated at each other. We love each other, but we’re like brother and sister in the way that we can’t stand each other sometimes.

“The more variety you have, the more you have in common with people. My music interests are different because I’m into some really hard-core rock stuff, but people at Woodrow got me. I do think you can find more people to have things in common with in a big school.”

Wingerd said other things weren’t all bad at Woodrow.

“I do feel like there’s a higher standard for test scores and the way you did your work,” she said. “It was a block schedule, so you had four periods to get your work done. You never had homework because you did everything in that class. I do feel like I had learned a little bit more. I feel like if the teachers here really stepped it up, then we could be just like Woodrow in test scores and standards.”

Wingerd says she thinks people are being immature on both sides.

“They’re kids,” Wingerd said. “They really are. People around here are all about ‘This is my school. You don’t take my school.’ A lot of the people from Fayetteville seem like they don’t want us. They don’t want us to be mingled in with their kids because we’ve always hated each other. If we went to a school together, then that’s just going to cause problems.

“At all of these board meetings you’d have all of these parents coming back and telling the teachers and then the teachers would tell us, about how immature people were being at these meetings. Everyone has been making up lies about each other. That makes everyone mad. I really feel like when parents are being immature and telling lies, then that’s just going to fall on down to the kids. If we do have to get consolidated, then that’s just going to cause problems.”

Wingerd said she also thinks a lot of people are doing whatever it takes to get some points for their side of the argument.

“I think the parents who have said that they think kids are going to join serious gangs are just trying to find anything possible to save Meadow Bridge,” she said. “They are just digging into everything that they can come up with and just saying it. Everyone is doing the same thing. Things would not be that bad. They would just be bad enough that I don’t think kids could be themselves.

“We wouldn’t turn into gangs that shoot people and stuff like that because that’s just silly. We’d just get into cliques. The cheerleaders here are friends with the volleyball players. At other schools, I’ve seen that they hate each other. They don’t like each other. There’d be no shooting gangs, but probably some cliques.

“If the parents and teachers set a good example for their kids, then there wouldn’t be any tension, even if we did have to join together. Even if we did consolidate, it wouldn’t be as bad as everyone is making it out to be.”

Wingerd says she doesn’t like the thought of losing her school and she feels bad for the kids who already have long bus rides.

“The people who live in places like Prince have a long bus ride and the people that live in Elton aren’t going to be able to go every day to play sports,” she said. “Sports are good for character building. If you want to play then, how are your parents going to get you there? I’ve heard people from Prince say they can’t play sports at Meadow Bridge because they can’t make the trip back and forth. There’s no way they could do it if they were driving all the way to Midland Trail.”

Some counties have solved the debate between sports and long bus rides, though. Preston County has only one high school that serves the entire county, which is very rural and has severe winters.

“Primarily we run a shuttle in the evenings after the practices and all of the after-school activities,” Preston County Superintendent Rick Hicks explained. “What we do is bid out to the local drivers to make those runs and then around six o’clock they load up the buses and go to our satellite schools, which is our elementary and middle schools, and drop off kids at various places along the way. It’s not very expensive at all.

“I do know that in Tucker County, at one time they did the shuttles. Hampshire is another county with a central high school and I believe they do shuttle runs as well. Basically they don’t run all of the little back roads and stuff, but they get the kids to a place where kids can be picked up from outlying communities. It’s been working here for many, many years, so it seems to do the trick.”

Others in the Meadow Bridge community say it’s not about long bus rides or politics, but about the town itself and the quality of the school.

“I don’t want to see Meadow Bridge close,” Will Workman said. “No one around here does. I just think it’s a (low-quality) school. I don’t think the kids there are getting the education that they could get at bigger schools. If they closed Meadow Bridge, the town would become a ghost town.

“No one wants the school to close, but I can guarantee that everyone around here wants the school to be a better school. The kids get a ‘good’ education by Meadow Bridge’s standards, which I think are lower than everyone else’s standards.”

Hayley Wingerd says the constant fighting is toxic for everyone, but she can’t see things changing any time soon.

“No matter who comes in and tries to change that, it’s going to be like that,” Wingerd said. “People pass on their own fights and prejudices to their kids. As long as one person has an idea in their heads, that idea keeps going. As long as this rivalry keeps going, then someone is always going to carry it on and it’s going to pass on to people. Until the rivalry ends, someone is going to keep saying ‘we’re going to win’ and that’s probably never going to change.

“Meadow Bridge is not going to lie down. We’re going to keep fighting for our school and we’re going to keep it open. We may not it do it the way that some people call ‘the right way,’ but we’re going to do the best we can to keep our school open. We love our school and we don’t want it gone forever.”

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com