"All of the staff at both schools will get priority when hiring for the new school," Mace said. "The only person that we have two of are principals, and we will have to decide which principal, the one from Troy or the one from Alum Bridge, will become the principal there. We'll go through that process when it's the right time to do it."
There is a chance there might be a lesser need for maintenance personnel, but Mace said the project is a solution the Lewis County school board is behind. The board voted unanimously to approve the project.
"I think when those buses go out on the first day, people will see what a beautiful school it's going to be," Mace said. "We had a committee made up of people from Troy and here and we discussed playgrounds, parking configurations - we looked at a lot of things in great detail. The people of Gilmer County are proud of this school, just like our county, because it's the people's school; it's the kids' school."
Unlike in other Lewis County schools, which are pre-K through the fourth grade, Leading Creek will adopt the Gilmer County system and have fifth and six grade classes, as well, Mace said. Students sent to Leading Creek will enter middle school in Lewis County in the seventh grade instead of the fifth unless other arrangements are made, and Gilmer County students at Leading Creek will be given the option to continue attending middle school and high school in Lewis County.
Ronald Blankenship, superintendent for Gilmer County Schools, said Troy Elementary School is nearly 100 years old. Like many older schools, Troy has outlived its expectations, and Blankenship said the partnership was something he and Mace had discussed as a positive one for both counties.
"We knew that by submitting each school individually, we weren't going to get them funded -- they just don't meet the economies of scale," Blankenship said. "We actually decided almost three years ago to go in together on this project."
Blankenship became the superintendent of Gilmer County Schools three years ago, after the county school system was taken over by the state board of education. The WVBOE entered into the Leading Creek agreement on Gilmer's behalf, but Blankenship said he believes other counties will see the advantage of inter-county schools.
"I'm optimistic that this won't be the first and last; there will undoubtedly be other opportunities for it," he said.
Manchin said he believes the funding shift for the SBA will be toward more inter-county schools in the future. He recently approached the Putnam and Mason County school boards with a similar proposal to join to elementary schools near the county line.
Leon Elementary has roughly 150 students and is seven miles from the Putnam County line, and Buffalo Elementary has about 250 students and is three miles from Mason County. Manchin estimates the cost of building two new schools would be around $25 million; the potential joint school would cost an estimated $13 million.
The Putnam County BOE voted earlier this month to contract architectural services to evaluate the project. Chuck Hatfield, superintendent of Putnam County Schools, said he has invited the Mason County board to attend the next Putnam board meeting, which will be held Monday in Winfield.
"Our board is certainly interested in exploring it," Hatfield said. "It's still a possibility, but it's very early in the process."
Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.