UPDATE 1/23/17 9:00PM:
Nicholas County’s Board of Education voted Monday night to approve Superintendent Dr. Donna Burge-Tetrick’s proposal for consolidation. The county still has several weeks before they can vote to officially consolidate.
The county must now submit the superintendent’s reasoning and supporting data to be available to the public 30 days prior to the first public hearing about consolidation. The Board has selected dates for these public hearings. At least one hearing must be held at each of the schools that are being considered for consolidation. Members of the public can present and submit statements and testimony at these public hearings. Community members may ask questions of county school officials at these public hearings. The dates are as follows at each perspective school unless specified.
Feb. 24th for Summersville Middle School
Feb.27th for Nicholas County High School
March 1st for Richwood Middle– meeting to be held at Cherry River Elementary Schools as Richwood Middle is unsafe to enter
March 3rd for Richwood High School– meeting to be held at Cherry River Elementary Schools as Richwood High is unsafe to enter
March 6th for Nicholas County Career and Technical School
The Nicholas County Board of Education must accept findings and recommendations from any local school improvement council prior to or at the public hearings. The new transportation time for consolidated students must be made available to the public.
After all public hearings, the Board of Education will make a final vote on consolidation. The matter will then be presented to the West Virginia Department of Education for a final decision.
Nicholas County’s Superintendent is asking the Board of Education to close five county schools in order to build two new consolidated schools. Dr. Donna Burge-Tetrick is recommending the Board close Nicholas County High School, Richwood High School and Nicholas County Career and Technical Center to be consolidated in a new high school. Then Summersville and Richwood Middle Schools would be consolidated into a new middle school.
Monday night Dr. Burge-Tetrick presented a report to the Board of Education regarding population, budget, school performance and logistics for the schools in question. Past data shows a steady decline in population, meaning the county has been forced to make budget cuts and often staff cuts each year.
“You can only continue for so long until you’re in the red,” Dr. Burge-Tetrick explained.
She argued it would be impossible to properly educate students if they keep cutting the budget every year to keep up with student enrollment drops. However, Richwood Mayor Henry Baber told 13 News the significant investment in RIchwood, after the flood, was not factored into the Superintendent’s report.
“I totally reject her numbers. I believe, today Richwood has 75 students in it’s high school, I predict that we will have 150 within Richwood within 10 years,” Baber told 59 News.
After presenting all factors, the Superintendent recommended putting a consolidated middle and high school on one campus in the county. The Board of Education has asked Dr. Burge-Tetrick to begin looking into possible sites for the new schools.
“Why are we the flooded school being consolidated with the school that wasn’t flooded, it almost seems like we’re being punished,” Richwood Band and Music teacher Michael Fox said.
Richwood High and Middle School as well as Summersville Middle School were all flooded back in June. FEMA has approved the three schools to be rebuilt outside the flood zone, but still within the city they original served.
“The kids have lost a lot. A lot of them lost homes, lost cars, have lost a lot and now to loose the school also,” Richwood Mom Denise Taylor told 59 News.
Dr. Burge-Tetrick hopes to utilize the Sandy Recovery Act to consolidate the projects into the new consolidated FEMA project. A new application to FEMA must be made if the Board votes to consolidate. It’s not clear if FEMA will agree to pay for schools where non-flooded students would be attending. But even if FEMA does approve the project, Nicholas County is now months behind.
“You see every morning headlines from Kanawha County that things are moving quickly, and here we are, I still don’t even have a classroom yet,” Fox added.
Town hall style forums would take place in Richwood and Summersville if the Board of Education votes to approve the consolidation proposal.
Our reporter, Alyssa Meisner, is reporting that Nicholas County Superintendent Dr. Burge-Tetrick has recommended consolidating Nicholas County High School, Richwood High School, and the Career/Technical School.
Reporter Alyssa Meisner is also reporting that the Superintendent is recommending consolidating Richwood and Summersville Middle School together.