Parents ask for review of plan to close Meadow Bridge High School

By Sarah Plummer

CHARLESTON — Fayette County residents Wednesday asked the State Board of Education to reconsider the future of Meadow Bridge High against the backdrop of Randolph County residents pleading for the future of Valley Head Elementary.

In an argument all too familiar for those against consolidation in Fayette, Randolph County Resident Sally Kirk Adkins said rural counties need special consideration because of the many obstacles they face, including poverty.

“Geography should not dictate a child’s educational destiny,” she said.
Meadow Bridge parent Sandra Harkens said the two county’s complaints sound identical. In both instances, local boards have lied, disrespected parents and bullied their way to get what they want, she said.

“Consolidation for the sake of consolidation is wrong. It is wrong in Randolph County, and it is wrong in Fayette. Meadow Bridge people don’t whine and complain. We bring to light true misrepresentations and injustices,” said Harkens.

Carolyn Arritt, with Meadow Bridge Citizens for Community Schools, said Meadow Bridge has been under the threat of consolidation since 1973.

She said members of the community working with the School Building Authority (SBA) during the most recent review of the facilities plan had no input. On the last day of the review, the SBA presented its plan. Committee members were able to ask questions, but could not make changes.

Previous reviews were conducted using inaccurate facility information, and hand-picked committees were controlled by “certain groups.”

Both Arritt and Harkens asked the state board and its four new members to review the facilities plan.

According to the uncertified enrollment figures available on the West Virginia Department of Education website, Valley Head Elementary, K-5, has an enrollment of 39.

Meadow Bridge, grades 7-12, has 234.

The State Board of Education, under previous leadership, voted to approve the current amendment to Fayette’s facilities plan which earmarks Meadow Bridge for closure.

Phase one of the plan — construction of two new schools in Oak Hill — was funded by the School Building Authority in December.

Fayetteville area parent Geoff Heeter asked the board to let Fayette County continue to move forward with the plan.

“We have been working as a community on this (facilities plan) for a long time, thousands and thousands of community hours. Multiple CEFPs (Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan). Multiple studies,” he said.

The review last year by the SBA should become a statewide model, he said. The agency gathered data, met with communities and used that information to develop a plan.

“Unfortunately West Virginia is losing population. We’ve lost all kinds of money. It would be wonderful to say we could fund and support schools like Valley Head and Meadow Bridge, but under the current way we do business, we can’t,” he said.

Two Fayette County Board of Education members attended Wednesday’s meeting in Charleston.
Fayette Board Member Patsy Holliday said she represents the one dissenting vote on the board.

“I think we should give all our children in our county the same opportunities,” she said. “They should all be educated in our county where their taxes go and where they can vote for the board of education.”

Holliday has been a vocal opponent of closing Mount Hope Elementary, Valley High and Meadow Bridge High and sending part of those students to neighboring county schools.

Those students should not be thrown away, she said.

She asked for the new board to work with Fayette to “fix this.”

Fayette Board Member Steve Slockett said he represents the 4-1 super majority on the board.

“We are committed to seeing that project (funded by SBA) completed as intended. Superintendent (Terry) George is no-nonsense. He was hired to do certain things, and we are on the brink of completing those. The board majority supports the CEFP because it increases academic offerings in Fayette County solves our facilities problems in a financial way we can afford,” he said.

— Email: splummer@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @Sarah_E_Plummer