Mercer Consolidation Issue Reaches State Board

Mercer County school consolidation has landed before the state board, with local board member Lynne White arguing against the county’s plan to build a sixth-through-eighth-grade school that would consolidate students from schools in Athens, Spanishburg, Oakvale and Lashmeet-Matoaka.

White believes middle school students in the Lashmeet-Matoaka area of Mercer County will face bus trips more than four times longer than usual when Pikeview Middle School opens in 2011.

She disputes county figures that an increase in daily bus runs will lead to just $10,348 more each year in fuel costs.

The state School Building Authority has already agreed to pay $12.5 million of the $15.5 million project.

Mercer school board members agreed 3-2 to accept the SBA money and build the new school.

White says that documents sent to the SBA contain incorrect information, and the length and cost of bus runs are highly underestimated.

She says 10 bus runs would each be split into separate secondary and elementary school runs in order to meet state-recommended travel times.

White received mapping help from George Towers, a geography professor at Concord University. Those figures show the bus rides for students in all four areas will increase and many bus rides will exceed travel times of 45 minutes, the maximum the state recommends for middle school students.

“Many more students will be beyond the 45-minute maximum. I don’t see how we double up 10 routes and don’t have an increase on our transportation costs,” White said.

Greg Prudich, president of the Mercer school board, disagrees with White, saying he doesn’t “know where she gets her information from.”

Prudich said because students are already bused to nearby Pikeview High School, future travel times can be estimated.

Prudich says county students deserve a new middle school, with few parents showing up to protest the consolidation.

He said about 90 community members showed up at eight public hearings to discuss the closures.

“That doesn’t support widespread opposition,” he said.