Residents ask board to reconsider potential closures

Members of the Randolph County Board of Education heard from concerned delegations Monday about the proposed closure of Coalton Elementary School.

The Randolph County Board of Education classified three schools as “noted for closure” in its comprehensive educational facilities plan on Nov. 20, 2012. Interim Superintendent Terry George said then that changes had to be made to the 10-year plan as a result of the proposed bond call failing in the Nov. 6 general election.

Homestead Elementary, Harman and Coalton Elementary schools were all listed as “potential closure” schools, George said.

“The revision is a result of the bond failing,” George said in November. “We had to revise our priorities.”

At Monday’s board meeting, staff and parents from Coalton Elementary asked that the board reconsider.

“As a staff we were shocked and dismayed upon hearing that our school was being recommended for closure as part of the SBA proposal,” Coalton Faculty Senate President Kelly Judy said.

“While we understand this is merely a recommendation at this time, and no action has been taken beyond that, we feel it is the appropriate time to express our concern and pose some questions for your consideration.”

Judy asked where students would go and if they would be sent to another county. She also asked what funding would be eliminated if students were sent to a neighboring county.

Judy reminded board members that students should be the first priority. She said the Coalton community felt “blindsided” when the proposal was made.

“We feel it would have been appropriate to inform our community that this was the plan prior to the board meeting of Nov. 19, 2012,” Judy said. “Maybe this could have been clearly stated during one of the several community forums that were held to ask for levy and bond support at Coalton Elementary.”

Desire Miller, Coalton Elementary PTA president, said it did not seem the board examined all avenues before choosing to propose the closure of Coalton Elementary.

“We see rooms of bright students, eager to learn,” Miller said.

Board members did not respond to the presentations.

George and BOE President Lisa Wamsley are scheduled to go before the state School Building Authority today to ask for funding for renovations at Tygarts Valley Middle School.

– Also during Monday’s meeting, concerned parents spoke to the board about the proposed combining of classes at the Harman School.

Board members voted to table three items from their agenda during the Feb. 18 meeting. George had recommended as a budget-cutting measure, creating a kindergarten/first grade split class at Harman School. This proposed class, plus a kindergarten/first grade/second grade split at Valley Head Elementary School and a third grade/fourth grade/fifth grade split at Valley Head Elementary School, will be added to the agenda of a future meeting.

Lisa Cogar, whose grandchild attends Harman School, spoke about the proposed integration of kindergarten and first grade.

“Please look in other areas for budget cuts,” Cogar said. “Our kids deserve a great education. If you combine these classes, you put our most valuable asset at risk – our children.”

Kathy Raines, parent of a first-grade student at Harman, presented board members with another petition.

“This has been signed by students, parents, community members and school alumni,” Raines said. “Please take the signees’ comments into consideration before deciding to combine these classes.”

“Please keep our kid’s education in mind,” urged Julie Ketterman, parent of a Harman first grader. “The younger years are very important and we need to keep kindergarten and first grade separate to help students learn and succeed. These students need to stay focused under one teacher. Putting our kids in a split classroom is just setting them up for disaster.”

Christy Shiflett said she is against combining kindergarten and first grades at Harman.

“This proposal is weighing on our community,” Shiflett said. “Parents are talking about this all over. Ask yourself if you are making the right choice. If this was your child or grandchild, would you still be OK with your decision?”

In other business, members of the Randolph County Board of Education took the following action:

– Recognized the Beverly Volunteer Fire Department for their generous donation for the county social studies fair. The allow the schools to use the station free of charge each year for the social studies fair.

– Approved an out-of-country field trip to London and Windsor, UK. Those making the trip are Matt Postlethwait, Aaron New, Jacob Currence and Steve Demyan.

– Hear a report from Elkins High School student representative Kelli Carr about student accomplishments.

Board members listed to a presentation by Finance Director Brad Smith regarding the 2013 to 2014 budget.

“A fair amount of information needs to come in to prepare the final budget,” Smith said. “I will receive no final numbers until the end of April and that leaves about four to five days to get it all together. A copy of the proposed budget needs to be published May 17 and May 24. The public hearing concerning the 2013-2014 budget is slated for May 20.”

The next Randolph County Board of Education meeting is slated for 6 p.m. April 1.