School funding and economic sustainability

Randolph County is faced with the great 21st century challenges of sustainability In most parts of the world populations have stopped growing and started aging.

Problems of declining numbers are more severe in West Virginia than in most U.S. states because we are the only state that has lost population for 50 years, and our numbers may continue declining for 15 more years.

According to a WVU research study, Randolph County is one of 11 counties that may hold its own and even grow 10 percent over the next few years. We are fortunate that the Davis and Elkins families established a sustainable college, hospital, park, and YMCA. These institutions survived and the county population is approximately what it was 100 years ago because responsible local people have been able to understand the economic challenges of their times.

Now it is our turn to assess the needs of our area and plan for the future. We have incredible natural beauty here in the highlands; however, our county school system has the added expenses of providing an education for children in a sparse population spread thin over a large amount of land. Our tax dollars must stretch to support several small schools and a big fleet of buses.

I believe Superintendent Devano and his team should be commended for their efforts to get as much grant funding as possible to expand and improve small schools in the county. I have heard that the building improvements at Beverly, George Ward, and Harmon are beautiful. It was sad when part of the roof blew off Homestead Elementary and the school had to close, but students are settling in and getting new spaces at Beverly and George Ward. The historic Homestead School is becoming a community center with local support.

It is not possible to get enough grants to do all that is needed to run a school system responsibly. Therefore, our superintendent and school board must ask citizens to vote for an excess levy to improve technology, to hire enough teachers, and to maintain safe and appropriate facilities.

Today, 21st century jobs require literacy, numeracy, and technology. Even the young window clerk at McDonald’s must use a computer to serve us a hamburger. Older adults in our community may not have children in the schools, but we all will be dependent on younger people for old age care.

Sustainability means learning to live more efficiently and taking care of what we have. It may not be as exciting as taming the Wild West and winning the World Wars, but it is what is necessary to survive and enjoy the beautiful natural world that we have been given and work effectively with the tools we have developed.