Nicholas County schools board holds consolidation meeting at Richwood Middle School

By Alex Thomas
RICHWOOD, W.Va. – At its third meeting regarding consolidation efforts in the school system, the Nicholas County Board of Education heard three hours of public comments regarding the proposal.

The meeting was held Richwood Middle School, one of five schools being considered under the plan.

The board would shut down Nicholas County High School, Richwood High School and the Nicholas County Career and Technical Center, and merge the schools into one facility. Additionally, Richwood Middle and Summersville Middle schools would be closed in its current state and replaced with one middle school.

If the plan is approved, the two new schools could open as soon as the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The board said consolidation is the result of the effects of the June 2016 flood and declining student enrollment.

Richwood Middle, Richwood High and Summersville Middle schools were heavily damaged in the flood.

Nicholas County Schools Superintendent Donna Burge-Tetrick said the student population is declining at a rate of around one percent a year.

“If we built a school back in Richwood area or two schools back in the Richwood area, no one is going to benefit if the student population continues to decline and we cannot sustain educational benefits for all students,” Burge-Tetrick said.

According to Burge-Tetrick, more courses could be offered and staff cuts would be better absorbed if consolidation did happen.

The Richwood Chamber of Commerce approved a resolution on Feb. 20 against current consolidation efforts, saying removing Richwood Middle and Richwood High schools would have a negative effect on rebuilding efforts in the county.

Chamber President Mary Jane Williams, who said she formerly worked as a teacher, asked the board about keeping both schools, noting research showing the benefits of smaller schools.

“Smaller schools are associated with higher SAT and ACT test scores and improved overall student well-being,” Williams said.

Former Richwood Middle and High schools student Zachary Taylor said he hopes the board considers how consolidation will impact the community.

In his explanation, Taylor mentioned a moment he had with former Richwood Middle School Principal and current board member Fred Amick after Taylor and other classmates were caught throwing objects in class.

“That morning, he told us that everything we do has consequences and although we didn’t mean to hurt anyone, we needed to step back, and look at the situation before making a decision and consider the ones that could be hurt,” Taylor said.

The board has consolidation meetings scheduled for Mar. 3 at Cherry River Elementary, and Mar. 6 at the Nicholas County Career and Technical Center. The West Virginia Board of Education would have to approve the final proposal.