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Harrison schools plan on tonight's agenda

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

The final public hearing on a comprehensive plan drafted to help determine the future of a number of Harrison County school buildings is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. today at Bridgeport High School.

The county Board of Education must hold the hearing on the proposed Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP) before approving it and sending it on to the state Board of Education for its review and consent.

The plan is a blueprint for 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.

The CEFP is required by state law and the state Board of Education to help project budgeting needs. More than 80 community members, teachers, parents and service personnel served on the local committee that helped draft the plan, according to James E. Bennett, president of the Harrison Board of Education.

"We tried to bring together people from each area of the county to formulate this plan. What they came up with is the draft of the CEFP that has been out on public comment," Bennett said.

The plan calls for a number of schools to close in the next 10 years, including Adamston, Harden, Johnson, Lost Creek, Lumberport, North View, Norwood, Simpson and Van Horn elementary schools. Students from those schools would be moved to other schools or would attend one of two new consolidated elementary schools.

At the middle school level, Gore and Salem would be closed and merged into a new facility. The current Salem Middle would be turned into an elementary school.

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

"Even after this plan is approved, nothing is set in stone. Before we close any of our schools we would have to hold a series of public hearings and get approval and additional funding from the state," Bennett said.

One local group that opposes the closure of many of the local schools plans to attend tonight's public hearing, according to Paul Hamrick, a member of West Virginia Challenge. The group is a statewide non-profit organization that supports smaller schools and works to affect public education policy.

"We want to encourage people to come out to the public hearing to find out what the prospects are as far as closing many of the local schools," he said.

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