Further school consolidation could happen in Kanawha County, but how much and for how long are uncertain.
Kanawha school board unanimously approved a plan reduce the district’s roughly 70 schools to about 60 over the next decade. The master plan names the schools that would close.
But approval of the plan is only a step. County school board members and members of other agencies still need to vote on specific moves before they can be adopted. West Virginia law and state Board of Education policy govern school closures, including generally requiring public hearings, county school board votes, and final school board approval of State.
If Kanawha relied on money from the State School Building Authority to consolidate, it would require a vote from that agency’s board of directors to approve the funding.
The consolidation discourse is driven by the county’s declining enrollment of 2,600 students over the past five years or so. But the problem is not new.
Kanawha largely did not lead consolidation initiatives in its previous 10-year plan, said architect Adam Krason, co-owner of Charleston-based ZMM Architects & Engineers. The plan addresses many of the same concerns from a decade ago, Krason said. The county paid ZMM $ 185,000 to develop the new plan.
“Down the road, we’re going to have to consolidate,” said board chair Becky Jordon. “We are losing registrations, we have older buildings and money is a problem.”
But, she said, her vote for the new plan doesn’t mean she approves of the details.
“Over the next few years our board needs to make changes if we continue to lose registrations,” Jordon said. “But I don’t know what they are right now.”
Horace Mann and West Side Colleges, which send students to Capital High, would be merged into one school.
“You can currently tailor each student who attends Dunbar, South Charleston and West Side [middle schools] at West Side Middle School, it’s just how low usage is, ”Krason told the board on Nov. 19.
Hayes and McKinley Colleges, which feed St. Albans High, would also merge. Krason’s presentation did not specify where the new schools would be located.
The Cedar Grove Elementary-Middle building would send its college students to DuPont Middle, which supplies Riverside High, while the rest of Cedar Grove Elementary School would be upgraded, Krason said.
Five elementary schools in eastern Kanawha in the Riverside High area would be merged into two.
Belle and Malden and Chesapeake and Marmet would combine. Midland Trail elementary students would be split between the two amalgamated schools.
“There are 12 schools that feed a high school with 1,200 students,” Krason said of Riverside High.
Cross Lanes Elementary Schools and Point Harmony would merge into a new Cross Lanes Elementary Center.
The consolidation proposals are part of what is known as a comprehensive ten-year educational institution plan that each county is required to compile. Plans must be approved by the state school board and school building authority and may be revised with the consent of state education officials.
ZMM sent a team to each school to assess its condition. Company ratings for each school were provided to Alpha Facilities Solutions, a company the state hired to help develop the plans. Krason said Alpha combined information from ZMM with other data to obtain building condition scores that helped identify schools in the worst conditions.
About 120 of the 140 people invited to help develop the plan participated, Krason said. About sixty responded to a survey on the possibilities for the next 10 years.
“I think we as a board would take all of these [consolidation plans] on a case-by-case basis, if and when they occur, ”said Ric Cavender, member of the board of directors. “It’s a set of guidelines and tactics proposed to make sure we’re doing our best to save taxpayers’ money, or spend it as efficiently as possible and also be mindful of our, unfortunately, shrinking population. in the county. “