State school board to hold emergency meeting on Nicholas County lawsuit

By ALI SCHMITZ

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Board of Education will hold an emergency meeting Monday to review information about the Nicholas County Board of Education’s request to close and consolidate five schools in the county.

The emergency meeting agenda indicates the state school board may further act on the Nicholas school board’s proposed closures and consolidations, which the state school board already shot down. The agenda says “Motion(s) may be considered regarding Nicholas County Schools’ proposed CEFP [Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan] amendment/closures.”

The meeting will be held a day before a hearing in Kanawha Circuit Court for a lawsuit filed against the state board of education and state Schools Superintendent Steve Paine.

According to a release from the Board of Education, the meeting’s purpose will be to “help expedite a final resolution of the matters pending before the Circuit Court so that federal funding will not be in jeopardy.”

The lawsuit alleges the state arbitrarily denied Nicholas County’s school consolidation plan, which would have merged Richwood Middle, Richwood High, Summersville Middle, Nicholas County High and the county’s vocational educational center in Craigsville into a consolidated campus near Summersville. The district planned to use Federal Emergency Management Agency recovery money received after three of the schools — Richwood Middle, Richwood High and Summersville Middle — were closed following the June 2016 flood.

The lawsuit also alleges Gov. Jim Justice and Paine tried to block the plan, and Paine misled the state board during the June meeting in which the board denied the plan.

The lawsuit aims to overturn the state board’s denial of the consolidation plan.

A plan for the schools’ reconstruction or consolidation must be completed by December for the district to receive a FEMA grant. The deadline was initially last month, a year after the historic flood, but Nicholas County received an extension for the grant.

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