WEST UNION -- Doddridge County school officials may close Greenbrier Grade School in June, linking the possibility to a disappointing tax year and declining enrollment.
"It's clear that we can save a substantial amount of money by closing the school early -- possibly $150,000 or $160,000," said Jeff Moss, superintendent of schools.
The school of 35 kindergarten-through-fourth grade students was already scheduled to close June 2002 because a new, county-wide elementary school will open on U.S. 50 that fall. The board will consider the early closure during a Feb. 22 public hearing, Moss said.
He said the savings would come from building-related costs and, ultimately, from a reduction in force of the county's teachers with the least seniority.
"One of the difficulties with being a superintendent or managing any organization is that, at some point, you have to deal with dollars and cents," Moss said. "That's difficult."
Moss said oil and gas taxes were down for fiscal year 2001, which ends June 30. The current school year budget was cut by $200,000 as a result, he said, noting tax projections for the next fiscal year are not yet available.
Melodie Jones, Greenbrier principal and one of four teachers there, is disappointed by the move.
"This has been a real surprise to the people in the school and in the community," Jones said, noting she met with Moss Jan. 26 and he said nothing of the plan then. "The board gave us their word that they would try to keep the school open until the new one is done."
Jones is also concerned about projections that transferring the students to another school would add an average of 15-20 minutes to bus commutes, according to administrative figures.
Moss said several transfer options are under consideration should the board vote to close the school. Among them are sending all the children to West Union Grade School in the county seat, allowing parents to choose between that school and Sedalia Grade School or mandating certain students to attend one or the other of those two schools.
Jones said parents have actively expressed disappointment in the move and the overall closure of the neighborhood school, located south of Salem.
"It's just sad to see the little country schools go," Jones said. "It's such a unique educational atmosphere."
Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at email@example.com.