An editorial from The Register-Herald
BECKLEY, W.Va. — The depth of the problems facing Fayette County schools was revealed in a recent interview with Ron Cantley, the Board of Education’s operations director.
Cantley candidly described what the county was up against: leaky roofs, old coal boilers, failing windows and old furnishings in a school system in which the average age of its facilities is around 50 years.
The one overarching fact about the deep infrastructure dilemma facing Fayette County is that there are too many schools taking too much of the annual budget.
Fayette has 10 elementary schools, two middle schools, five high schools and one vocational school. Aside from Kanawha, no county in the state has more high schools than Fayette County.
Compared to neighboring Raleigh County, with a student population of approximately 12,000 students and four high schools, Fayette has roughly 5,000 fewer students and an additional high school.
In fact, Cantley said, the county can’t even fund critically needed repairs for the schools it operates now. The county is stuck in a cycle in which it will never succeed in catching up, he said.
“The main reason Fayette County has problems like this has been our collective inability to make the big decisions regarding the number of schools that we have. The delay in closure of schools sent money into buildings that ultimately had to close anyway due to declining enrollment.”
Cantley also talked about the lack of a “political consensus” about which schools should be closed, and worries that should this gridlock continue, the infrastructure problems facing Fayette will continue to worsen beyond a point where the school district can be effectively salvaged…