by James Fisher
BUCKHANNON -- Upshur County Circuit Judge Thomas Keadle has volunteered to remove himself from hearing any further arguments about the proposed closing of Central Elementary School.
Keadle said the Upshur County Board of Education and a group of parents opposed to the closing have 14 days to find a mutually agreeable substitute. Keadle's decision came after a request from the school board that he remove himself from the case because of public comments that he does not support school consolidations.
That ruling has effectively quashed any possibility that the Upshur County Board of Education can close Central Elementary School this year.
The closure process requires a minimum of four weeks and the statutory deadline for school closures is the first Monday in April.
The proposal to close Central Elementary came earlier this year after a review of the county's state-mandated 10-year Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan.
The plan was immediately opposed by a group of parents and concerned citizens, who last week filed a temporary injunction seeking to halt a planned public meeting on the proposed closure.
Keadle granted that temporary injunction, filed by David McCauley, Mary Jean Rylands and Elizabeth Leigh, all parents of Central students.
Late last week, attorneys for the board requested that the three parents post bond in excess of $430,000, the amount the board claims it will save by closing the school. Keadle denied that request, but agreed to voluntarily recuse himself from the case.
School officials contend Central Elementary has no potential for enrollment growth and that two other schools are located within just a few blocks.
Opponents have cited classroom overcrowding as one of the reasons for opposing the plan.
Neither acting Superintendent Helen Whitehair nor McCauley returned telephone messages Tuesday.
Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.