Harman’s hazy future

Information about the situation at Harman School in Randolph County is about as dependable as an answer from a Magic 8-Ball.

One minute the prognosis about funding assistance to repair damage from a July 4 ceiling collapse at the facility is, “It is decidedly so.” The next minute that changes to, “My sources say no.”

And so it goes with the unpredictability surrounding the school’s future. At issue, it appears, is the fact the Randolph County Board of Education classified Harman as “C” on paperwork filed with the state. That designation means closure, according to the School Building Authority of West Virginia and the West Virginia Department of Education Classification Form, which is dated Oct. 1, 2012.

The form states, “C = Closure: A school facility that is projected for closure before the fifth year of the 10-year planning period.”

That means Harman was in the last few years of a countdown to closure. Interesting. We wonder how many parents and members of the voting public knew that? The Inter-Mountain first reported this in an article dated Nov. 20, 2012, describing the school district’s comprehensive educational facilities plan. The closure paperwork has the October 2012 date, yet a November bond call vote that same year during the general election listed more than $5.6 million in repairs for Harman.

The bond call was defeated, but school district officials wouldn’t have known the election’s outcome a month prior. So why, then, was Harman’s closure status already determined?

This designation was a fact not immediately apparent to the state when Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, sought funding for emergency repairs in late July. She was slated to announce, at a special meeting July 29, that a significant portion of the $200,000 in needed funding had been secured. However, that offer of state monies was rescinded after the “C” designation came into play.

I wonder if this “C” status would have changed the mind of the unnamed source who recently donated $25,000 to the repair effort with a promise of $25,000 more to come for a total of $50,000.

In addition, the governor’s office just this week has offered $65,000 to support the cause. It came with a request to media that we keep the funds “quiet.” The Inter-Mountain doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the support, but government business needs to be conducted in the light of day. If the existing closure designation is such an issue, then it needs to be addressed openly, publicly and expeditiously.

There has been much secrecy, though, surrounding Harman’s future and what will happen to its students at the start of the school year. Again, just this week, Randolph County Schools Superintendent Terry George told The Inter-Mountain after the fact about a meeting that occurred Monday between Harman Principal Tammie Daniels and parents of children who have attended the school. When asked why media and the public were not notified, he indicated the meeting wasn’t “public.”

We have to question why not. No mention of this informational session for parents was made at the board meeting, either, on Tuesday. We think information shared at or garnered from this meeting would have been vital to board members.

In the Nov. 20, 2012, article we referenced earlier, George, the then-assistant superintendent of schools for the county, said changes that were made to the 10-year plan were a direct result of the proposed bond call failing in the Nov. 6 general election.

“We had to revise our priorities,” George said and the time. “This is not an official vote to close the schools.”

Perhaps not, but it was official enough to submit to the state. It also was official enough to now impact funding for Harman’s repairs and to affect the school’s – as well as its students’ – future.

It’s time for some straightforward, honest and dependable answers. With what the public knows now, like the Magic 8-Ball, we want to tell the school district, “Reply hazy. Try again.”