Pocahontas CEFP Committee Report Reaches a Decision Regarding School Closures
The long wait is over. A draft of the 2020-2030cPocahontas County Schools’ Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP) has finally been issued. This report details a proposed plan for the county schools over the next ten years. Before finalization and submission to the State Department of Education, this draft report still required a public hearing and still has to be approved by the Board of Education at their October 27th meeting.
A public hearing about it was held during a special Board of Education meeting on Tuesday evening, October 6th. There was sparce participation by the public either in person or via Zoom Meeting.
The CEFP Committee, was made up of fifty (50) people, consisting of board members, teachers, school administrators and community members. They have been working hard since May of 2019 to develop the flexible ten-year plan for changes and upgrades to the school system. Every school system in West Virginia is required to develop a CEFP every ten years. The committee’s Chairperson is Suzanne Stewart. Matt Breakey and Bill Radcliffe of the Thrasher Group served as architectural consultants. The committee was broken down into four subcommittees: Goals and Objectives; Community Analysis; Educational Plan; and Major Improvement Plan.
The overall goal of the plan is to ensure that the Board of Education will provide the school facilities to support the curriculum and instructional delivery models which meet state standards.
One of the biggest and most controversial issues faced by the committee was whether the county schools would continue to maintain five separate schools over the ten-year period. Suzanne Stewart cleared up that decision early in the public meeting, announcing that “there are no plans in the CEFP report to close or consolidate any facility.”
It was pointed out during this meeting that there had been a lot of discussions both in the subcommittees, and among the county residents about the possible closure of Marlinton Elementary School and about sending 7th and 8th grade students to the high school because the state will be mandating that in the 2022-2023 school year, those grades must be exposed to Career and Technical Education classes (CTE), which the high school is equipped to do. But the final committee decision was to maintain all existing schools and maintain the same grade configurations at each school as now exist. Stewart did add, however, that this CEFP document is a “living document” and that if it becomes necessary during the ten-year life of this CEFP to consolidate facilities or change grade configurations at any school, the Board of Education could make amendments to this plan and submit those to the state.
To demonstrate just how controversial those issues are, several school officials and at least one board member commented that it was not a smart financial decision to keep all five schools open, while two other board members stated that Marlinton Elementary School is just too important to the Town of Marlinton to be closed, and if the school was damaged in future floods, it just needed to be repaired.
There was also a discussion about how the School Building Authority’s recent refusal to fund a new sprinkler system at Marlinton Elementary School presents an immediate safety issue at the school and must somehow be quickly addressed. Director of Maintenance Ron Hall said a new sprinkler system at the school will cost between two-hundred thousand and two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($200,000 -$250,000.) No one seemed to know where the money could be found to do that.
The entire fifty-five-page draft report was summarized at the meeting, and the complete report can be found on the Pocahontas County Board of Education’s website.