Saved From The Jaws Of Death, State BOE Reopens Fayette’s Nuttall School

A long closure saga took a last minute turn with a change of mind by the State Board of Education.

Fayette County’s Nuttall Middle School, slated for closure,was re-opened at the last minute just before school started this fall.

Challenge WV fellow Carolyn Arritt said “The will of the parents and taxpayers, was finally heard. They want their children educated close to their community.”

The state Board of Education voted overwhelmingly to reopen the facility to teachers in less than a week and students in less than two weeks before school started.

Dr. Lowell Johnson cast the lone vote to deny the county’s proposed amendment to its Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan.

The decision cleared the way for Fayette County to open the school to students and staff after voting to close it in February.

“There are no pristine schools in Fayette County,” said Bill Elswick, executive director of the state Office of School Facilities.

“It’s a burdensome responsibility to keep all of these schools open. They [Fayette County school officials] have met the criteria to amend their CEFP, but it’s a burdensome situation,” Elswick said.

Nuttall Middle employed 10 teachers during the 2007-08 school year.

Three Fayette school board members supported reopening the school. President Dave Arritt, vice president Leon Newman and Leon Ivey spoke in favor of amending the county’s CEFP, and re-opening the school.

“The decision to close it was unacceptable,” Ivey said.

“This is about our children. We’re putting the burden entirely on the children, with nothing to gain,” said Ivey, who formally took a seat on the board last month after defeating Peggy Farmer in May.

“We can’t adequately take care of our schools. It’s a situation we’ve allowed ourselves to get into. This [closure] does nothing to better their [students] education,” Newman said.

Arritt said Fayette County has closed 20 of 43 schools since 1980.

“We can afford to keep it open with our budget. We’ve let Nuttall slip into bad territory [its physical condition], but it’s still a structurally sound school. The people of Fayette County want to keep Nuttall Middle School open,” Arritt said.

Arritt underscored his point by noting new board member Ivey was elected in May because he opposed Nuttall’s closure. “That’s how you settle conflict. You let the ballot box do it,” he said, not alluding to pressure put on county school boards by the state for consolidation.