Sustained Outrage

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A Gazette reader asked a good question: Why does Putnam County’s school bond proposal include construction of a new building for Buffalo High School, a school with only 300 students?  See proposed floor plan and fact sheet.

We posed that question to Superintendent Chuck Hatfield and Putnam Board of Education member Debbie Phillips.

“You’re kind doomed if you do, or doomed if you don’t,” Hatfield said. “We’ve looked at consolidation… [and] the voters will not support it, and probably more importantly to that we believe in community schools, especially in the rural areas of West Virginia.”

A new Buffalo High School would be built for 400 students to accommodate projected growth, Hatfield said. With the new U.S. 35 and the Toyota plant, Putnam is still expecting growth.

The new high school will also be built on a 46-acre site that the board bought in the 1970s. The school’s track, baseball and softball fields already sit on the land.

For nearly two decades, the state School Building Authority has also encouraged consolidation by making it a condition of awarding state money to new school projects.  The SBA has since changed its stance. (Daily Mail reporter Ry Rivard addressed the subject in a June 11 article.)

“The governor in one of his state of a state addresses early in his term made mention that he is in support of these smaller community schools,” Hatfield said.

“The SBA is not nearly as hung up on the consolidation as they were in the past,” Hatfield said. “That was at least a general feeling.”Debbie Phillips also pointed out the proposed bond is based on public input from community meetings held while the bond was being put together.

Students in Buffalo are not just coming from the immediate area, but also from surrounding ridges and rural areas.

“It’s a good drive to get to the school for some of those students,” Philips said.

If consolidated, the new U.S. 35 would cut down on some of the travel time for students coming from the Buffalo area, but only for a portion of the students, she said.

Voters also rejected past bonds that proposed consolidation, she said.

“It won’t be right for us to put out an issue that has already been rejected by the voters,” she said.