OAK HILL, W.Va. — Beginning in August, the students who should be attending Collins Middle School, staff members and faculty will be reunited for the first time in more than one year.
Fayette County School Superintendent Terry George said the county has come up with a short-term solution in purchasing portable modules that will be able to provide a better learning environment.
“There will be two units–each having 14 classroom each–for a total of 28 classrooms,” George said. “And we will continue to utilize some of the classrooms at Oak Hill High School, as well as the cafeteria, and the gymnasium.”
George said this is a small step–the first of many–in trying to improve education in Fayette County.
“This is our first step in getting these students reunited, getting them back into a facility that we not only consider to be safe, but also that will have an atmosphere that is conducive to education and unite our faculty for the first time in a year and a half,” George said.
Fayette County hasn’t passed a bond issue since 1973. In that time, school facilities have begun to crumble–falling into disrepair.
When George arrived in Fayette County last summer following the third failed bond issue vote in fifteen years, he quickly moved to come up with a comprehensive plan to present to the State Board of Education and School Building Authority. Fayette County schools are under state control.
The proposed plan involved consolidating the students of Fayetteville High School, Oak Hill High School, Midland Trail High School, and Meadow Bridge High School under one roof.
That plan came under fire from both the SBA and members of the Meadow Bridge community. George had to fight to get the SBA to even hear the proposal in December, which they eventually rejected due to the considerable cost and concerns over matching funding.
The 2015 Fayette County Comprehensive Facilities Plan called for a $39 million dollar investment over three years. The School Building Authority operates with around $50 million dollars for school projects each year.
Shortly after the new year, George began meeting with the SBA to try and come up with a new plan–one that he hoped would be comprehensive, cost effective, and would solve the biggest issue that county educators deal with: the crumbling facilities.
“We hope to conclude that in the very near future so that we can work together to put a plan in place that will probably take several years to totally implement,” he said. “We feel that we’ve got a good organization and that we will have productive results from this.”
Collins Middle School is uninhabitable, and George said the learning conditions for most of the students in Fayette County is unacceptable. But he also said that any new plan that comes out of his meetings with the School Building Authority will likely take much longer to implement then what he proposed last year.
“What I would encourage is patience from all of the groups here and interested parties here in Fayette County,” he said. “I know the parents want to see action immediately. I know that some of the political organizations here want to see action immediately. There will be action, but I think we have to come together and build a comprehensive plan that is sustainable and that we can financially afford to do over a period of anywhere is four to six years hopefully.”
George said community input will be a big part of this planning stage.
“Our first order of business is to collect input from the communities here in Fayette County, find out what people want to do, what changes they want to see, and what they’re willing to do to make that happen,” George said.
There are no specifics available, at this time, on what a new facilities plan may include.