The Times West Virginian

September 1, 2013

Majority against consolidation of schools


Times West Virginian

— So, I’m not from Marion County.

Heck, I’m not even from West Virginia.

I just happened to be college-aged when my father was stationed at West Virginia University’s ROTC department in his last assignment before retiring from the U.S. Army. And they just happened to buy a house in Fairmont a block away from Fairmont State. So I attended college here. And by chance I started a career here. And then I started a family here. And at some point during those years I started to fall in love with Marion County and West Virginia. And then I consciously chose to stay here and raise my family here.

But when it comes to “sides,” I missed the years where I was supposed to form alliances with a particular part of the county or a side of town because of sports and old rivalries.

Sure, I married an East Sider and bought a house on the East Side (at his insistence), and my kids attend East Side schools. I will root for the Hornets this football season because my kid is wearing a uniform. But I always root for the hometown team, meaning I wish the best for the Cubs and the Husky Pups, too. And that will go on when its Bees and Polar Bears and Huskies, too. So the word “consolidation” doesn’t evoke an emotional response from me. I wasn’t here in the 1970s when it happened in the North Marion area.

So, when the issue of combining East Fairmont and Fairmont Senior high schools comes up, as it usually does every few years or so, I’ve always looked at it from an outside point of view. Is it about money? Economy of scale? Is it about wanting to hold onto “community” schools when so many communities have lost theirs? Is it about Bears versus Bees?

I have to say, a recent explanation given by Gary Price, Marion’s superintendent of schools, was probably the most compelling I’ve heard against consolidation.

“We just hope that Marion County’s business outlook and the education outlook are both in the upturn for the future,” he said. “As more jobs are provided, more people will be able to stay here.”

Price added that community members have suggested at different times over the years that the county should consider consolidating the high schools, particularly East Fairmont and Fairmont Senior. But the decision has been made to keep each school open because of the potential for additional growth in Marion County.

“If we consolidated those schools at this point, wherever we put them, the building would be filled to the brim, and then you’re basically saying we’re not going to have any more growth,” he said. “But by giving yourself some cushion in both buildings, we could absorb several hundred students at the high school level and still have adequate facilities, and that’s certainly what we hope is going to happen.”

Hey, we’re all for growth. And it seemed like a very reasonable argument. But we wanted to hear from our readers on the issue, so we took it the poll. Our poll question can be found each week at www.timeswv.com.

Last week we asked, “Marion’s Superintendent Gary Price said that to consider consolidation of EFHS and FSHS would mean no room for attendance growth in area. What do your think?”

And here’s what the readers had to say:

• With attendance rates steady, now is not the time to debate it — 6.25 percent.

• Keep an open mind. Anti-consolidation has more to do with old-time rivalries than facts — 15.13 percent.

• Go for it. It saves money and will create a AAA powerhouse for Marion County — 23.36 percent.

• Completely against it. Communities suffer when you consolidate — 55.26 percent.

This community isn’t ready for that kind of decision either.

This week, let’s talk about the possibility of the U.S. becoming involved in the Syrian issue through a military strike. Is this something that you could support?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV