Kanawha superintendent continues pitch to consolidate schools by next year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Tom Williams says the district’s utility bills have gone up more than $600,000 and they’ve lost thousands of students over the years. Those are just some of the reasons why he has proposed consolidating schools.

Tom Williams

“We only have X amount of dollars and we have to make the best use of those,” Williams said on Friday’s “580 Live” on MetroNews flagship station 580-WCHS in Charleston. “When you close buildings, you save on utilities and staff. Then we’re able to put our resources into other facilities.”

Williams said more than 4,300 students have left the Kanawha County school system over the last decade.

“We’re at a critical point,” he said. “With continuing population loss, we can no longer support the number of schools we have.”

At Monday’s Kanawha County Board of Education meeting, Williams proposed closing Grandview Elementary in Charleston, Marmet Elementary in eastern Kanawha County and Weimer Elementary in St. Albans at the end of the 2023-24 school year.

Under the plan, Grandview students would go to either Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary or Edgewood Elementary on Charleston’s West Side. Students at Weimer would go to Bridgeview in South Charleston or Alban Elementary in St. Albans. Marmet students would go to Chesapeake Elementary.

Williams said there’s a lot of empty space in some of the buildings students would be moving to.

“Other than moving the classrooms, it won’t be a cost to the system to do that,” he said.

Another reason for the consolidation is the school system’s aging buildings, Williams said.

“I think our average age of our elementary schools and middle schools is 63 years. The average age of our high schools is 50 years. We do have HVAC, roofing, windows, all of that is expensive. With the population decline, we have to look at ways to save money,” he said.

Williams said he knows consolidating schools is not favored by many parents. That’s why the school board plans to hold a series of public hearings on the closure of each of the four schools. Those meetings dates will be announced at a later time.

The proposal will then need to be approved by the Kanawha County Board of Education and the state Board of Education.

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