Board member asks for Fayette to slow down, fix schools while developing a plan

By Sarah Plummer REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER Register Herald

State Board of Education and School Building Authority board member Thomas Campbell proposes Fayette County stabilize schools with structural concerns and then take the time to develop a community-based plan of action.

The Greenbrier County resident said independent firms should be brought in to see what it would take to reopen Collins Middle, open the second story of Meadow Bridge High and stabilize Mount Hope Elementary. Once that is accomplished, he would like to see the School Building Authority work as a facilitator in the county to help develop a plan with the community.

In the past, SBA staff has worked with county administrators to develop plans, but never directly with the community. During the most recent review of the county’s Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan, representatives from Williamson Shriver Architects acted as facilitators of the process.

“It seems to me we have been desperate and dictatorial in one direction without taking into account other possible solutions,” he said. “The state department needs to take a back seat. I know people in Fayette County are desperate, but we need to find out if these schools can be reopened.”

Campbell said he spoke with SBA Executive Director David Sneed Wednesday, who indicated the authority could consider funding repairs to the three schools with structural deficiencies.

“The board is hung up on one solution, and there is a national bias toward consolidation,” he continued. “That doesn’t mean rearranging schools leading into consolidation is bad, but having some students on a school bus anywhere between 80 minutes and two hours is counterproductive.”

“I would compliment Fayette County on having voted down two fairly large consolidations. Those votes have spoken loudly on the state level,” he said.

Campbell has long suggested the large and rural nature of Fayette County makes it impossible to consolidate smaller, rural schools. He noted that Fayette County is about 60 percent the size of the State of Rhode Island, and has “unique needs as a large geographic county.”

As a state board of education member, he voted against the county amendment to consolidate Midland Trail, Fayetteville, Oak Hill and Meadow Bridge into one high school located in Oak Hill. He also voted against approving the amendment as a SBA board member on Monday.