Image result for Brooke County Board of Education May Revisit School Consolidation Plan

Stacy Hooper, the board’s new vice president, has suggested the board form a committee to revisit the comprehensive educational facilities plan.

“I think we’re going to have issues with the (school district’s five-year operating) levy based on the CEFP,” she said Monday. “People are saying, we’re not going to support the levy because of it.”

Hooper suggested a committee of school personnel and community members could “bridge a gap”between the board and the public.

Superintendent Toni Shute said such a committee was involved in developing the plan approved by the board in 2010 and will be needed to update it for approval by the state Board of Education in 2020.

She suggested a work session to discuss forming the group.

The 2010 plan called for the merging of the county’s two middle schools into one new school, which will open this year. It also called for the county’s seven primary schools to be merged into one new school at the county’s north end and another at the south end.

For more than a year, the group attended meetings led by a private educational consultant and an engineering firm involved in designing new schools. When the board held a public hearing on the recommended plan, it heard from just two people, one for and one against.

Shute said the board had planned to close all seven primary schools first, but building two new schools would have meant higher taxes for the county’s residents.

Instead, the board sought an amendment last year from the state Board of Education that allowed it to close L.B. Millsop, Colliers and Beech Bottom primary schools and merge them with the four remaining schools beginning this year.

School officials cited a decline in revenue of more than $12 million during the last four years and enrollment, which had dropped by 439 students last year and is expected to drop by 212 this year.

The amendment included a change to the four remaining schools’ names and grades. Hooverson Heights and Wellsburg primary schools have become Brooke Primary North and South, serving grades K-2, and Jefferson and Franklin primary schools have become Brooke Intermediate North and South, serving grades three and four.

School officials have said the approach will allow schools to focus on the needs and educational objectives for children close in age.

Shute said if that approach is found not to be as successful, it could be revisited.

Future plans call for the four to be merged into two, possibly using land occupied by the two closed middle schools, or one at a central location to be determined.