Pocahontas County Wrestling with Possible Future Consolidation of Schools
The Pocahontas County Schools’ Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan committees are busily designing a ten-year plan for the school facilities which could include controversial school consolidation. We asked School Superintendent Terrence Beam to update us on this CEFP.
‘Our CEFP subcommittees have been meeting on a fairly regular basis” said Beam. “One of the subcommittees met last night (November 13th) and also next Thursday, November 21st, there is going to be a general meeting of all the committee members to discuss our progress on our CEFP, which is a ten year plan which every school system is required to do to determine the direction of their school system for the following ten years.”
And speaking with Suzanne Stewart, who is our chairperson, things seem to be going really well, a lot of progress is being made. Some subcommittees have almost completely finished their work, while others are not. We are waiting on some updated reports concerning the costs of updating our facilities. They received a preliminary set of numbers about a month ago, which we forwarded a report, which was provided to us through Alpha Construction, on the projected cost of improving our buildings. And, when we got those numbers, we knew they were not entirely accurate, but we had told our subcommittee members in a previous meeting that when we received the information from Alpha, we’d forward it on. And we did, but now we are asking for more updated, more precise numbers to provide the subcommittees, so that they can better make decisions as to what direction we go so far as grade configuration, number of buildings, and so forth and so on. The subcommittees right now are trying to determine the number of buildings we can afford to keep in Pocahontas County. We currently have five. Can we continue to fund five buildings? That’s something the committee is trying to decide, and if we decide lessen that number, then which ones do we lessen and how do we do it.”
“I, personally have kept a low profile on this process because I felt like this needed to be decisions made by our community members rather then the Board of Education. We will help in any way we can to facilitate any direction that they choose to go, but I do not want to put my personal biases out there for the community members to listen to when they are the ones who need to make the decisions on what direction our school system goes,”
Consolidation of schools will be a very controversial issue in this county. Because Pocahontas County is so large geographically but so small population-wise, any consolidation of schools will require many students to have to travel a lot farther to get to school.
“Right! And that is always going to be an issue. Our size of our county isn’t going to lessen any, but I am afraid the number of students we have is. There was some preliminary numbers we looked at that in the 2000 Census, we had approximately 1800 students in Pocahontas County Schools. And when the 2020 census comes, that number is going to be about half. But we still have the same number of buildings to house half the number of students. So, financially, that is something that the committee needs to decide. Is that practical to continue that? And I’m not saying if it is or isn’t. That’s up to them to decide, but it is harder to provide services to less students in that number of schools with the less budget we have because our budget numbers have dropped due to decreased enrollment, due to tax revenues going down, due to federal money that’s dried up, So, we have less money to operate those five schools with. So, those are big decisions to make.”
“It’s going to be very difficult for us to come up with a one hundred percent consensus on this, but they have until June of 2020 to finish and make their recommendations.”
And I think, from what I am hearing, there is going to be a consensus to some extent. In-other-words, I don’t think there is going to be five options out there, but I think the committees are pretty well decided on two or three possibilities as far as the number of schools we have. And those will be part of the final plain. And I want to reiterate once again that it is the community members on these committees are the driving force behind this decision making.”