Pastor offers alternative to busing plan

HARMAN – A local minister plans to meet with Harman School parents and offer a temporary alternative to busing their children across the mountains to Elkins, until emergency repairs at Harman School can be completed.

Pastor Curlie Ray Jr., president of Tygart Valley Christian Academy in Beverly, is sponsoring a community meeting at 7 p.m. Friday at the Dry Fork Assembly of God.

Ray said he hopes to give parents and students an option other than having students travel the approximately 23 miles one way from Harman to Elkins. The Randolph County Board of Education voted Tuesday to bus the Harman students to Elkins schools until emergency repairs at Harman School are completed.

An entire plaster ceiling fell in one of the school’s classrooms during the July 4 weekend, bringing down two tons of material. No one was present at the time in the school, which was built in the 1950s. MSES Consultants estimated repairing the ceiling at $175,000, and Harman School was deemed unsafe for student occupancy.

A total of $55,000 donated anonymously toward emergency repairs at Harman School was presented to the BOE by Harman residents Tuesday.

Ray said he hopes to provide a temporary solution to Harman parents.

“I want to discuss private school options with these parents and students,” Ray said. “I want to offer them home schooling options or discuss the possibility of opening a private school in the area.”

Ray said he has received phone calls from parents who are afraid for their students to make the trek across the mountain. He said he has already enrolled three Harman-area students in his home schooling program.

“If parents want, I would like to find a building or a church where we could house a private school,” Ray said. “The issue is it would have to have fire alarms, and be able to pass health department and fire marshal inspections.”

Ray said he is not trying to find a permanent solution – he said he wants to help until emergency repairs are completed, and then he wants to see the students returned to Harman School.

“I think the Board and Superintendent Terry George are doing a good job, and I am not trying to hurt anyone with this offer of assistance,” Ray said. “My job is trying to help thy neighbor.”

He said he does not plan on charging parents tuition.

“We have the means and we will absorb the cost,” Ray said. “Parents will only need to pay for their students’ books.”

He cautioned that West Virginia state law does have requirements related to home schooling.

“If you opt to home school your child, they must be tested before they are placed back into the school system,” Ray said. “Be sure you ask questions about accreditation of the school, transcripts for the schools and if the school is certified. Tygart Valley Christian Academy is accredited and certified.”

Ray said he attended Harman School in the 1980s, adding the July 4 ceiling collapse at the school is not the first in the school’s history.

“I went to Harman School,” he said. “One morning, we were in the gymnasium eating breakfast and heard a horrible crash. The teachers ran into the room and told us all to get out as soon as possible. One of the plaster ceilings at Harman School had collapsed then as well.”

The Tygart Valley Christian Academy was founded in 1994 and serves students from pre-school through 12th grade.

According to the Academy’s website, it is a yearly registered Exemption K School with the West Virginia State Department of Education in Charleston and the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics in Washington D.C.