Ritchie County superintendent: Failure of school bond was 'tragedy'

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RITCHIE COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - Speaking to 5 News Wednesday, the superintendent of Ritchie County Schools didn't hide his disappointment about voters' rejection of a school bond, going so far as to call it a "tragedy."

"They're going to force Ritchie County Schools to go backwards and to continue spending thousands and thousands of dollars on old facilities instead of spending on the children on academic programs," said Rick Coffman.

By a voting percentage of 54-46, residents in Ritchie County voted down a $7.9 million school bond that would have funded a new elementary school in Ellenboro.

If the bond had passed, it would have led to the consolidation of Creed Collins Elementary School, Harrisville Elementary School, and Ellenboro Elementary School.

Harrisville and Creed Collins are each more than 50 years old, Coffman said. He noted that because of the high maintenance costs and decline in enrollment, available funds are limited.

"When you have schools that are 53 and 54 years old, they're a money pit," Coffman said.

Opponents to the proposal worried that the passage of the school bond would lead to higher taxes.

Coffman dismissed that argument Wednesday, pointing out that the average increase would be about $2 per month per household.

"And the voters basically said. 'For that amount of money, no, we don't want what's best for our kids,'" Coffman said.

Those strong words come nine months after a similar defeat, when 56 percent of voters rejected a $9.9 million school bond.

Last September, the bond included the consolidation project, as well as money for renovations to Ritchie County Middle/High School.

However, in December, the district was able to secure funding for the renovations from the School Building Authority.