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Full consolidation of schools can help budget; what about kids?

The latest North Central West Virginia county to make a move toward full consolidation was Doddridge County when, on June 5, ground was broken for a consolidated elementary school there. The county already has consolidation in its high school and middle school.

Granted, consolidation may be a good economical move entering the 21st century. We just hope that full consolidation is as beneficial to the children attending the schools as it seems to be for the school board budget.

It was announced that the new, $4.1 million elementary school is scheduled to open no later than the fall of 2002 -- possibly even earlier -- and will share a site along U.S. Route 50 near Smithburg with Doddridge Middle School. That would close four existing elementary schools. As this is fewer than the average number of elementary schools in a county, the differing effects on students may not be quite as noticeable as a county that had contained, say, seven to 10 primary grade schools.

Still, we often hear of the obstacles to a youngster's learning that might be created by a larger teacher-to-pupil ratio, not to mention additional problems with the logistics of moving students from home to school and back home again.

It is in no way our intent to single out Doddridge County as a prime example of full consolidation. It merely happens to be the latest school system in the region that is "progressing" toward one elementary, middle and high school in the county.

Rather, it is the prospect of full consolidation with which we take issue here. If there were problems with learning in a county school system previously, would those problems be lessened by moving students from several elementary schools, for example, into just one?

We can only say that we hope that as much attention is being paid -- take note, state and county school administrators and educational experts -- to the learning aspect as to the dollars-and-cents aspect. If not, it seems to us the entire purpose is defeated.

Robert F. Stealey

Telegram Editorial Board chairman

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