CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Board of Education has approved opening a regional, pre-kindergarten-12th grade school in Meadow Bridge.

The school would replace the old and dilapidated preK-6th and 7th-12th grade schools currently operating in close proximity in Meadow Bridge, said Terry George, Fayette County schools superintendent.

George told board members, during the meeting last Wednesday at the State Capitol complex in Charleston, the new school would serve students who live in the area from Fayette, Summers, Greenbrier and Raleigh counties. School officials said it would be the third regional school in the state.

“If you go to Meadow Bridge, the county line for Summers County and Fayette County runs right through the middle of town,” George told board members. “You could be one house up and you can be a Summers County student. The next house could be a Fayette County student. What we’d like to provide is an opportunity for these students to go to the school that’s closest to their front door, and this allows them to do that.”

Currently, more than 200 students attend the elementary school, and more than 200 attend the high school, school officials said. That includes 49 from Summers, one from Raleigh, five from Greenbrier and 369 from Fayette, they said. George predicted that building a regional school would attract more students as well.

George said they had previously sought to close the high school, which was built in 1939, but were denied. Among other problems, the building has mold, more than 20 fire violations, and deflection in the floors, according to George. The fire marshal has forbidden students from the second floor of the building.

“Currently right now at Meadow Bridge, the secondary students have to walk over to the elementary school to get a meal because the secondary school does not have a kitchen,” he said.

He noted that at a combined school, some staff could work at both schools, and students would also share a cafeteria and kitchen.

He also said the buildings were so dilapidated that it wasn’t feasible to invest in repairs. He estimated that the fire violations would cost $10 million to rectify.

“I’m not going to put 10 million in a building that’s probably still going to fall down,” George said.

He also told board members that Fayette County buses already pick up the Summers County students.

School officials said that since the area falls near county lines, and because of the terrain, it’s closer for many students to attend school in Meadow Bridge than in their counties.

In an interview, George said the state board had, in 2016, denied Fayette County’s request to close the aging high school because of those transportation difficulties. He noted Meadow Bridge is a very isolated area.

Officials also noted that middle school students (typically 6th through 8th graders) would be in the same school as their peers.

Anna Kincaid-Cline, associate superintendent, said the new school would also allow 6th through 8th grade students to “learn together.”

“Your 8th grade students can mentor your third grade students because they’re all in the same building,” she added. “There’s a culture that develops within the school by the students and there’s already a strong culture in this area that a community school’s really important to them.”

George added that he, as well as the county board and the community, are in total support of the regional school concept.

“I am a graduate of a K-12 school in Randolph County and you do develop a very tight community sense,” he said, “and you do see the same kids all through school, and the older students do look after the younger students and take care of them because it is a family-type situation.”

According to the agenda, Fayette school officials say there will be full-time art, music, and physical education programs, access to more clubs, the chance to take a foreign language in elementary school, STEM opportunities for all students, and a combined counseling service.

“It would increase the number of course offerings to students as a result of merging those K-12 students,” Board President Dave Perry, who is from Fayette County, said in an interview.

The regional school isn’t a done deal. Whether the project takes place will depend on whether the state School Building Authority grants funding, said Kincaid-Cline, associate superintendent.

Email: ebeck@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @3littleredbones

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