By Stephen Smoot
In spring of 2009, as Harrison County worked to produce a state-mandated Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan, the proposal to close Liberty High School and move its student body to Robert C. Byrd first emerged.
At the time, Sally Cann, Board of Education Vice President, was quoted in the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram as saying “it’s so preliminary right now, and we have the power to change the document over the next 10 years.”
“That may be the goal, but it may never happen,” she added, then stated “but maybe we need to explore that possibility.”
The 2009 recommendations also included building a new high school, as Tom Lopez, board member, said at the time.
One board member, Michael Queen, voiced opposition to the proposal, explaining in a quote in the Exponent-Telegram that “we need to use our current goals and objectives and build upon those objectives.”
Last month, WBOY reported that Dora Stutler, superintendent of Harrison County Schools, participated in an unofficial meeting with faculty senate chairs of both Liberty and Robert C. Byrd high schools. At the meeting, discussion of a merger occurred, but Stutler said afterward “the board has voted on nothing at this point.”
Fred Ware, Liberty faculty senate chair, related to WBOY that I have not seen anything in writing and I can’t find anything in the county’s 10-year plan for anything like that.”
West Virginia Metro News quoted Stutler as citing “Loss of population in the county, in certain areas of the county.” She added that, “some areas of our county are seeing a decrease a lot faster than other areas.”
The full proposal calls for Liberty High School students to move into Robert C. Byrd, Washington Irving and Mountaineer Middle School to combine in the current Liberty facility, and Salem and North View elementaries to combine in Mountaineer building.
Many officials have pointed to a more efficient use of resources as a reason to merge the schools. Liberty has a capacity of 1,100, but only 450 students currently. Adding Liberty’s student population to RCB’s 710 would bring that school to near-capacity.
Metro News also reported that school authorities have concerns with the aging North View and Salem elementaries, especially in light of last year’s emergency closure of Norwood due to structural issues.
The Harrison County Board of Education met last Tuesday in the Robert C. Byrd High School auditorium. This occurred after deadline.