Monday, August 21, 2006

East/West Consolidation

I somehow missed a big headline articles in the Times-WV on Saturday regarding the possible consolidation of East Fairmont and Fairmont Senior into one super high school and shutting down several schools in the county. And, well, when I got to work Monday, I had several people ask me my opinion and, of course, I was blindsided because I missed the article. But I have now gone back and read it and am prepared to discuss it not only with them but with you as well.

First, why would you consolidate? Answer: Money. Anyone who tells you otherwise is blowing smoke. This is purely a bottomline move. There are no benefits to larger schools (education-wise) other than money. I've heard a few people mention the benefits to sports teams. Ummm...I thought people went to school to learn first? Maybe not? Anyway, Phares wants to consolidate to help the MCBOE budget. Less schools = less teachers. Fairly simple.

I am completely against consolidation. Not because of the alleged rivalry between the schools (I will explain sometime later why the rivalry no longer exists), but because I don't see any educational benefit to a larger high school. Would a larger high school lead to a larger variety of classes? Maybe. But most kids are going to the college now to get those classes. Better teachers? Doubtful. More opportunties? No, probably less. More lost kids? Yes. Larger schools tend to lead to less and less one-on-one time with students who need that attention.

Some people think a consolidated East/West would be a beast in athletics. Nah, I don't see that either. A consolidated East/West would pave the way to a new AAAA division in West Virginia. Even combined, I don't see a lot of championships heading to the Fairmont area. A good baseball team and an excellent swim team. Maybe girl's basketball. Boy's once in a while. But it's not going to be the dominating force some people force themselves to believe. Especially when going against other Quad-A teams every year. And don't get me started on the travel expense to play a Quad-A schedule in West Virginia.

Lastly, think about the amount of time kids spend on the bus in Marion County already. Now start shutting down community schools and sending them further away. Is that really fair? Is that the goal? I thought one of the big educational pushes was to scale back on bus time. Now Marion County is looking to increase it. Something is wrong with that.

I don't see consolidation any time too soon. But, the local officials continue to try to make you numb to the suggestion. If you don't want it to happen, you need to speak up and let your voice be heard because the Marion County BOE has all the press they need in the Times and they will continue to push what a great thing consolidation would/could/will be. If you don't favor it, you need to be vocal and let it be known.

On the other hand, if the student population continues to diminish, it will eventually have to occur. There's no reason to have two high schools that house 700 kids. But, I also see no good argument to create a high school of nearly 2000. Well, other than money. And that's obviously all some in "education" have on their mind.

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