State wants progress on Fayette plan; Campbell suggests need for bond

CHARLESTON — State Board of Education member Thomas Campbell suggested Wednesday that Fayette County vote on a bond to keep all schools open.

Briefly discussing the school system during the state board’s monthly meeting, Campbell said Fayette’s willingness to pass a 100 percent excess levy “shows willingness to step up for the kids.”

Fayette is one of only 23 counties with a 100 percent levy, which has been supported for decades.

Because the June 2015 bond did much better than previous attempts, he believes the community could support a bond if all three districts were given a reason to vote yes.

In June 2015, 38.1 percent voted in support of the bond. That number was 23 in 2009 and 13.8 percent in 2001.

“We need to look at an option to keep the schools open that are open now. The number of schools is justified,” he said. “If we can put Fayette County’s energy toward passing something, there will be plenty of money to support those schools.”

He also questioned ZZM Architect’s assessments of Fayette schools. He said they conducted a review of Collins in 2013 and indicated it was well maintained.

“I don’t want to sit on this very long. I think if we come up with something citizens can support, if you can get those communities working together instead of working apart, maybe there could be something they could pass,” he concluded.

Board member Dr. William White expressed concern a month has passed without action being taken in Fayette.

He said parents at Collins Middle are concerned about the school’s condition, and he hopes to see something done more rapidly.

“I implore you to work with the superintendent and get those kids in some safe space,” he said.

State Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano acknowledged “the clock is ticking” to prepare Fayette to request funding from the School Building Authority in December.

Martirano said the School Building Authority and Fayette County are working to develop a timeline and strategies to get community input for a quality Comprehensive Educational Facility Plan to address the needs of students in Fayette County.

Earlier this month, Fayette Superintendent Terry George said he is also working with the authority to develop a project to be considered for a Major Improvement Grant (MIP).

This projects would provide the county short term relief and must cost between $50,000 and $1 million. MIP grants are expected to be allocated in June.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Meadow Bridge area pastor Scott Ingleton said he has appeared before the board many times in opposition to consolidation and closing Meadow Bridge High School.

“I believe we need a statewide solution. The problems in Fayette County are not unique to Fayette County. The time has come to look at the state as a whole and strategically place high schools where people live so no student has to ride a bus beyond state regulation,” he said.

The state needs fewer than 55 school districts, he added.

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