FAYETTE COUNTY, W.Va. — Voters in Fayette County could take up a new school bond proposal as soon as May to fund a replacement building for Collins Middle School in Oak Hill.

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After the main building at Collins Middle School was deemed unsafe, seventh- and eighth-graders are being relocated to other campuses.

“It’s simply been devastating,” said Denise Smithson, a special education teacher at Collins Middle School, where last week’s abrupt shutdown of the main building forced seventh- and eighth-graders to be relocated to other campuses.

The cost to rebuild Collins Middle School is estimated at $27 million. In 2009, voters in Fayette County overwhelmingly rejected a $49 million bond that would have consolidated four high schools while funding many other school renovation projects.

Some 400 teachers and students must be moved to other campuses after an engineering report found the building at Collins Middle to be unsafe structurally.

“It’s been extremely stressful and, as adults, we understand the larger picture, but it’s difficult on the kids with the disruption to their lives,” Smithson said.

Fifth- and sixth-grade students will remain at Collins Middle School in a separate building. But Smithson, who is assigned to all grades, said the entire school community is reeling.

“These are fellow professionals, the teachers that we teach with side by side,” she said. “Many of them I’ve worked with over the four years that I’ve been here who summarily were told ‘You can take a desk, a chair and a file cabinet and pack up your classroom.’ You may have been there for 15, 16, 18 years, but tomorrow you will need to leave.”

For the rest of the school year, at least, Collins Middle seventh-graders will attend Fayetteville High School. The Collins eighth-graders will attend Oak Hill High School.

Olivia Tygrett has three children in the Fayette County school system. She said Collins Middle School is just one of many schools there with problems. “The ventilation is horrible, the building leaks—and this is Fayetteville Elementary, this isn’t even Collins Middle School,” she told MetroNews.

A West Virginia native, Tygrett said she returned home seven years ago to raise her family. “I was devastated when I saw the schools and that nothing had been done since I was a student in the 1980s and 1990s,” she said.

Since 2010, the state Board of Education has taken control over Fayette County schools.

“The (local) board is saying their hands are tied because the state runs it. The state’s not doing anything. Somebody has to be accountable,” Tygrett said. “So, either the state fixes it, or puts it (control) back to the county.”

Open houses are scheduled for Wednesday from 5-6 p.m. at Oak Hill School, the new school site for Collins eighth-graders, and Thursday from 6-7 p.m. at Fayetteville High School, for the relocated seventh-graders.

County schools are closed Monday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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Comments

  • BR

    Olivia Tygrett has a personal agenda against the school system for taking her children out of school to go on 11 vacations in a year. This is the same woman who suddenly appears rich over the past year with 3+ children and a nonworking male in the home. You might want to know how? People who live in glass houses should not throw rocks.

  • MW

    The problem with passing a bond levy for building construction is mostly due to a couple of things:

    1. The BOE's know virtually nothing about construction. When they visit a site the contractor can tell them anything and they will believe it. Hiring a reputable LOCAL or REGIONAL contractor to act as a consultant to the BOE would greatly help alleviate this.

    2. When the amount of the bond is being determined, the BOE's don't place a projected cost of materials increase from the time the bond is voted upon until the actual construction ends. This often results in a bond amount 20% or so less than the amount actually needed.

    The end result: Building size and facilities are less than what the original contracts dictated.

    By and large, communities don't mind spending the money to provide the best facilities they can; but when promises are made and then not fulfilled, it causes a lot of discontent and ,yes, even mistrust.

    Also, the move to consolidation which requires students in other areas of the county to ride buses for 45-60 minutes one way is not supported by the citizens of the county. Keeping school in MB, MT, Fayetteville, Montgomery, and Gauley Bridge may be more expensive but the rewards for the students and the county system is worth it.

  • 0010

    This whole situation is inexcusable. Everyone is to blame.

    • ViennaGuy

      I have to wonder if the Fayette County Board of Education is collecting property taxes at the maximum assessment rate allowed by law. If not, then someone needs to demand answers from the BOE as to why they haven't been collecting the full amount of taxes.

      • st. albans

        Fayette County defeated a school levey a couple of years ago. Ya get what ya pay for!

        • ViennaGuy

          You didn't read my post.

          In West Virginia, school boards are considered to be a taxing authority; accordingly, they have the power to set levy rates on the assessed values of real estate and personal property pursuant to statutory maximums without a direct vote of the public. If the school board is not setting its levy rates at the maximum allowed by law, then it is leaving money on the table.

          I am not a fan of property taxes; I think they are fundamentally unfair and should be replaced with another form of revenue. However, it is a bit hard to blame the voters for all of the funding issues if the school board isn't doing its part to fully fund the school system via property taxes.

          • MW

            We should all look carefully at what the tax monies are being spent for.

          • Sally

            Amen!

  • Donald

    Perhaps the citizens of Fayette County would be agreeable to the passage of a bond that would facilitate upgrades of present schools that have been neglected for numerous decades instead of a bond levy that would fiancé the construction of a consolidated school system that would subject our children be to long, extended bus rides from one end of the county to the other--day after day, season (winter, fall, summer spring) after season. Being on long bus rides, particularly during the snowy season, is dangerous.

    • Oak Hill Citizen

      Think about this, though. The Fayette Institute of Technology is a consolidated facility and works wonderfully! Students willingly ride from Meadow Bridge, Valley, and all over the county to this one facility every day!

  • Mason County Contrarian

    Hope the Powers That Be remember this cluster flop when the complaints about student test scores make the rounds next school year.

    And we seek to nurture achievement?

    Just an opinion.

  • JL

    Now you know how we fell in the lower valley. Our school system at Valley High School has always been on the short list for any improvements.

  • Dennis

    Putting seventh and eighth graders in high school is just asking for trouble. As a parent, I would be very concerned for their safety and well being in a high school environment. There are not enough teachers to properly supervise and protect the younger students from this type of environment.

    • jm

      They have been doing it at FHS for several years now.

      • Collins High Grad

        The kids going to OHHS will have their own wing from what I understand. But this still inexcusable. There are already 7th graders at FHS now as its 7-12 if I'm not mistaken. However, adding 200 kids at that school will almost double its enrollment. The refusal of Fayetteville residents to consolidate FHS into OHHS has been one of the major reasons the last 3 bond levies have been defeated. All the citizens of Fayette Co need to pass a bond levy ASAP. The closure of CMS is just the beginning.