W.Va. Senate proposes check on school consolidations

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 11:03 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - School consolidation and closures can be one of the most divisive things to hit a community.

But a proposal advanced Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee looks to add some important checks to the process.

Sen. Amy Grady, R-Mason, teaches at a elementary school of 160 students. As such, it has been a target for consolidation.

“I am a big proponent of small schools,” she said. “I don’t like consolidating unless there is an actual, real-life proof of need to do so.”

Senate Bill 229 seeks to provide just that.

The proposal -- advanced Tuesday by Senate Education Committee -- would require that county school boards include an impact statement with any consolidation proposal.

“This doesn’t say you can or you can’t, generally or specifically,” said Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier. “This just says, if you’re going to do it, and when you’re going to do it, take this thoughtful process.”

The proposal would force counties to publicly state the impact of a consolidation on transportation time, the anticipated financial cost or savings, the projected enrollments at the new school, specifics as to the increase or decrease in employment, as well as the broad community impact.

“I’ve seen over the years consolidations that, where it really destroys a community, taking their schools,” said Dale Lee with the West Virginia Education Association. “The school is generally the hub of the community involvement, and moving that school out has really hurt the community.”

Baldwin, himself a former school board member, hopes forcing counties to gather more information will keep a situation from unfolding quicker than it should, thereby reducing community division.

The consolidation impact bill now moves to the Senate Finance Committee.

The Education Committee also advanced to the Senate floor a bill that would encourage schools to each family and consumer sciences -- a topic many of us know simply as home economics.

That legislation is focused on the teaching of everyday activities, such as cooking, sewing, house cleaning, minor home repair, budgeting and time management.

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