CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “A resolution is imminent” on a school plan for Nicholas County after the June 2016 Flood in the view of West Virginia’s superintendent of schools.
“I have a very strong level of confidence that we will have a school configuration in Nicholas County that’s best for those students that are in Nicholas County — comprehensively all the students,” said Dr. Steve Paine on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“I know that both sides will probably have to give a little bit, but I am very confident.”
In addition to Paine and a mediator, that team includes Donna Burge-Tetrick, Nicholas County superintendent of schools, two Nicholas County board members, two members of the state Board of Education, a representative from Governor Jim Justice’s office and two officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency from Philadelphia, Pa.
FEMA is involved because the federal government will be providing funding for any new schools to replace those damaged in the flooding of June 2016: Richwood High School, Richwood Middle School and Summersville Middle School.
At issue is where those schools will be rebuilt.
The original school plan from the Nicholas County Board of Education, which the West Virginia Board of Education twice rejected, would have used alternative FEMA funding to cover the costs of a new consolidated complex as opposed to individual school rebuilds.
The county plan would have combined the three flooded schools with two others on one campus in Summersville.
In response, a lawsuit was filed against the Nicholas BOE.
The case was argued all the way to the state Supreme Court where the High Court found in October the state BOE did not overstep its authority in refusing to accept the consolidation plan and urged state and county officials to work together toward a resolution.
A mediator got involved in the school consolidation debate earlier this year.
Last week, Paine said the mediation talked for more than three hours and, while there were no specifics of a resolution agreed to, he left with optimism.
“We all have hope, not just me. Every member of that mediation team left with confidence that we’re on the path to something that will be really good,” he said.
“We made substantial progress and I’m just very pleased with the cooperative attitude and spirit that was brought to the table.”
Because of the amount of progress made, Paine said those representing FEMA indicated a Dec. 26 deadline for submission of a school plan had been lifted.
“There is a hard deadline, but they’ve not named it. I would just simply say, at this point from my perspective, it’s an indefinite,” Paine said.
“I don’t think it’s going to take us that long to figure out a resolution to this thing. I’m hopeful that can occur within a couple of months.”