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School board OKs comprehensive plan

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

Harrison County Board of Education members have repeatedly said that the proposed Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan is "not set in stone."

But Paul Hamrick, a concerned Harrison resident, said Tuesday's vote that approved the plan means "the concrete just set up."

During a special meeting on Tuesday, board members voted 4-1 to approve the plan that outlines the direction the county will take for the next 10 years concerning the closing and/or consolidation of a number of the county's 23 school buildings.

Doug Gray was the lone dissenter of the proposed plan. Before the final vote, Gray made a motion to appoint a committee of board members to get additional public input. Board member D.D. Meighen seconded the motion, but after a lengthy discussion, Meighen withdrew his second.

Meighen said he was concerned that people would equate the plan with a bond issue, but said the two are not the same.

"I just wanted to make sure that the people of Harrison County understand that we are not approving the plan as is, but we are approving a plan because it's required by the state in order to apply for funding in the future. It can be altered at any time," Meighen said.

The plan calls for a number of school closings in the next 10 years, including Adamston, Harden, Johnson, Lost Creek, Lumberport, North View, Norwood, Simpson and Van Horn elementary schools.

At the middle school level, the plan calls for Gore and Salem to close and be merged into a new facility. Salem Middle would be turned into a consolidated elementary school.

All the high schools would remain open under the plan, with renovations occurring at all five schools.

Additions to the approved plan call for a wellness center with a natatorium to be built in the next 10 years. It also includes a statement that maintenance of all facilities would continue at the current level.

Board member Sally Cann, who served on the 80-member committee who drafted the plan, said the plan is merely a "wish list" that could change drastically over the next 10 years.

"No one can really project what will happen in the next 10 years, but this plan is required by law in order to project what money we may need. Beyond that, everything can be changed," she said.

Paul Hamrick, who is also a member of West Virginia Challenge, a statewide non-profit organization that supports smaller schools and works to affect public education policy, said the group will now concentrate getting the support of schools that are slated for potential closure.

"We'll talk with parents and PTA and PTO groups to get them involved. We can't do anything unless we get their help," he said.

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