DIXIE, W.Va. — The Nicholas County Board of Education is exploring the option of closing Dixie Elementary School, and will begin the formal process and fact-finding mission pending a vote at their next regular meeting on August 17.

Dr. Kenneth Butcher, Nicholas County School Superintendent, said the decision would be difficult, but necessary.

“Nicholas County, like many other southern counties in West Virginia, continues to face a declining enrollment and declining budgets,” he said.

If the school were to remain open beyond 2015-16, the projections indicate only 22 students are enrolled. While numbers are low for the upcoming school year, that number indicates a near 60 percent drop from the current enrollment of 51 students.

If the board decides to vote for closure, Dixie Elementary would officially close its doors upon completion of the 2015-16 school year. Remaining enrolled students would be transferred to Zela Elementary School, assuming parents wanted their children to remain in the Nicholas County School system.

Dr. Butcher said a potential vote on closing Dixie Elementary could be held in late October or early November, and that the public will know well in advance. The upcoming vote on August 17 does not decide Dixie’s fate officially.

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to have it on the board agenda this evening,” he said. “Everybody is fully aware of both the reasons and the need to move forward.”

During this process, the Board will need to hold a public closure meeting. There will also be a three week period where the public closure document must be made available to the public.

Dr. Butcher said he’d like a school in every community, but it’s simply not feasible due to the declining enrollment.

“I’ve always felt the church and the school were the centers of the community,” Dr. Butcher said. “Although we can’t have a school in each community. When a school has been established in Dixie for many, many years, it’s a difficult thing.”

If the Board chooses to close the school, it would save the school system around $470,000.

“You’re making decisions based on an entire school system and what might be best for the entire school system,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of being able to see through the lens of any one community. We have to look at the entire county.”

A large portion of that is in personnel and utility costs, but Dr. Butcher said that it’s likely some personnel would move to other schools due to an annual need to replace teachers lost to attrition.

“We always are looking for filling positions,” he said. “Right now we have 11 positions that we’re still trying to fill. So hopefully we’d be able to absorb those positions and those great teachers could continue to work for us.”

Because of Dixie Elementary’s proximity to the county line, parents will have the option to send their children to a different school system if they so choose. Those transfers would then need to be approved by the Nicholas County Board of Education and the Board of Education where the student wished to transfer.

Dr. Butcher said the Board will prepare as if all 22 students that would be impacted by a potential switch from Dixie to Zela, but would understand if parents didn’t want their kids making a daily ride of 17 miles to school.

“That’s why I don’t want to plan on where those students are going to go,” he said. “Actually the families themselves need to make that decision–where they feel their child can best be educated and consider the transportation of those students as well.”