Barbour BOE looks at closing schools

The Barbour County Board of Education announced Monday that public hearings about the proposed closing of Mount Vernon and Volga-Century elementary schools and consolidation with Philippi Elementary School will be held next month.

The hearings are slated for 6 p.m. Sept. 16 and, if needed, 17 at Volga-Century Elementary School, 6 p.m. Sept. 18 and, if needed, 19 at Mount Vernon Elementary and 6 p.m. Sept 24 and, if needed, 25 at Philippi Elementary School.

“We are not going to be discussing anything like that tonight,” Board President Bob Wilkins said. “All we are going to approve this evening is the dates for the community hearings so that the folks in the community will be able to speak to us in their schools. And they will also have documentation as to the justification or reasons we are proposing.”

Monday was the first time the board has publicly said it is definitely considering closing schools.

One parent questioned board members about the issue during the meeting’s public comment section. Deneise Bray’s children currently attend Mount Vernon Elementary.

“How do you all announce to the public that you are having the forum?” Bray asked. “Do signs get put up or are there notices that are sent out to the parents?”

Wilkins said there are state-mandated guidelines for the hearings.

“(On Tuesday) the data will be available to the public,” Superintendent Dr. Joseph Super said. “It will be here, in all of the schools, posted on the website, in the Philippi and Belington Public Libraries and in the post offices.”

A full description of the guidelines for the hearings will be printed in the Wednesday edition of The Inter-Mountain.

Bray asked if all of the board members would be at all of the hearings.

“There will be a quorum at every meeting,” Super said.

Wilkins said the documents coming out will explain how to sign up to speak, how long you can speak and other information about the place and time.

“I understand by speaking with other parents that there are other students who want to go to Mount Vernon Elementary that are out of zone, but they are being denied because of the amount of students,” Bray said. “I was told everyone is being careful that no out-of-zone kids sign up to attend the school.

“If there is so much interest in kids going to that school, to me it says that school must be doing something right if so many parents want their kids to go to that school. It is a great environment. The teachers are wonderful with the kids and the fact that there are not many students does not speak to the quality of the school. I could not imagine why another teacher could not be added there.”

Bray said Matthew 25, a humanitarian aid organization based in Ohio, helps at Mount Vernon Elementary.

“They supply most of the supplies the school needs through the year,” Bray said. “I thought they also paid the utilities at the school as well. So it is at low or no cost to you except for the teachers, which you would have to pay if the kids went to another school anyway. I hope you will take this into consideration.”

The next regular meeting of the Barbour County BOE is slated for 6 p.m. Aug. 26 at the board office.