- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The state School Building Authority has rejected a funding plan for the consolidation of four high schools in Fayette County.

The authority voted Monday to deny the county’s request to let it compete with other counties for state funding to build a new high school.

The state Board of Education voted earlier this month to combine Fayetteville, Meadow Bridge, Midland Trail and Oak Hill high schools.

Fayette schools Superintendent Terry George then requested funding of up to $58 million for the new high school from the state School Building Authority, which distributes dollars raised from both state general revenue and lottery funds. The authority will announce what building projects it will fund in December.

Media outlets report authority board members were concerned that neither Fayette County’s residents nor the local school board voted for the consolidation plan. County voters in June overwhelmingly rejected a bond issue that would have consolidated three high schools.

“Nobody approved this,” said SBA member Victory Gabriel. “Not the local board, not the taxpayers. But wait a minute, the state board approved it.”

Last year the state Board of Education returned partial control of Fayette County’s school system, which was taken over by the state in 2010 because of substandard facilities and other problems.

SBA member Tom Campbell said the consolidation plan was quickly passed following George’s appointment as county superintendent in July.

“This is too critical of an issue to rush something through like this,” Campbell said. “You’re changing kids’ lives for generations.”

George said the county would need about $13 million annually from the School Building Authority over the next three years. The county would provide about $17 million in local funding, including $11 million from a lease-purchase attempt.

“Our plans are to go back and re-evaluate our situation and begin doing the best we can for the students who are being educated in subpar facilities,” George said after the vote.

George said it was too premature to discuss whether the county will hold another bond election. He said he believed Fayette County residents are “not going to tax themselves for anything.”

Fayette County school officials closed Collins Middle School’s main building in January, a month after a building housing the school’s gym and a school-based health clinic was closed. The roof above a band room collapsed under heavy show months after the room was closed. Collins students are attending classes at county high schools.

Inspections also found that the second story at Meadow Bridge High and one classroom at Mount Hope Elementary were unsuitable for occupancy.

“My concern is still the kids of this county,” George said. “We need to provide them not only an adequate facility to go to school, but the best possible place to educate them. We are struggling to do that.”

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