Ashton Marra Published

Agency Denies Funding for Fayette School Consolidation


The West Virginia School Building Authority denied a request Monday from the Fayette County school system for $39 million over three years to construct and renovate facilities in the district.

The Authority gives out additional dollars annually to counties to aid in the construction and renovation of schools. Monday, the board distributed some $56 million to 15 county school systems.

Fayette County’s proposal would have consolidated four of the five high schools into a new school in the Oak Hill area and renovated the existing high schools to accommodate Pre K-8th graders, getting them out of schools that state Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano called “less than desirable” Monday.

“It’s a disappointment for me that we have young people being educated in facilities I wouldn’t place my own children in as a parent,” Martirano said after the SBA voted not to fund the Fayette County project.

“Why should young people who don’t have the means or live in poverty be educated in facilities that are less than desirable?” he added.

In all, the plan would cost the county $56 million over three years and after the failure of the school bond in June, county Superintendent Terry George had hoped the money would come from the SBA.

Dozens of parents and teachers attended the meeting held in Charleston, some expressing their disappointment loudly to board members as they continued to press through their agenda.

Cindy Chamberlin, a mother of three school-aged children from Fayetteville, pulled her kids from their public schools this year, sending them to a private school in Raleigh County she said because she felt her children were unsafe in their dilapidating buildings.

“Some of those buildings, if we have bad weather this winter, are not going to withstand the weather,” she said.

Buildings on the campus of Collins Middle School in Oak Hill collapsed last winter after a heavy snow. Those buildings have since been condemned, displacing hundreds of students.

Members of the SBA approved a motion Monday charging the agency’s professional staff to work with the county on a facilities plan to move the county forward. The lack of a fully vetted plan was why many members voted against funding the school district.

“If we’re going to put that kind of money into a school system, we want to make sure we have the best [plan] there for the students,” SBA member Tom Lange said after the meeting.

Lange made the original motion to remove Fayette County from the proposed funding list. Only Martirano and state Board of Education member Tina Combs voted against his motion.