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Putnam, Mason counties consider joint school proposal

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- The Putnam and Mason County school boards will decide within the next two weeks whether to move forward with a plan to build a joint elementary school.

Both boards and their county superintendents were present for a regular Putnam County Board of Education meeting in Winfield Monday. William Legg, president of the Putnam school board, said the biggest issue facing the boards' decision is where a new school would be built.

"Our next board meeting -- we will know by that time whether to move forward and go with it or to drop it," Legg said.

The Putnam school board voted during its Oct. 7 meeting to contract services with an architectural firm to explore the possibility of building a consolidated elementary school. The new school would replace Buffalo Elementary School and Leon Elementary School in Mason County.

The two boards held a closed session to discuss potential plans for the project, which would be submitted to the state School Building Authority for funding. According to Putnam Superintendent Chuck Hatfield, the two counties have not made any decision regarding the project.

"We've intentionally not done a lot at this point because it is just a matter of discussion," Hatfield said. "No decisions have been made, and to have more discussion than that would be a waste of time."

Leon Elementary has roughly 150 students and is seven miles from the Putnam County line, while Buffalo Elementary has about 250 students and is three miles from Mason County. SBA Executive Director Mark Manchin told the Putnam County board during the Oct. 7 meeting that the SBA estimates the cost of building two new schools would be around $25 million.

The potential joint school would cost an estimated $13 million, which would likely also be cheaper than renovating both older schools, Manchin had said.

One other project of this kind in the state is already underway. Leading Creek Elementary, a joint venture between Lewis and Gilmer counties, will be under construction in November. The $10.5 million project is on the county line and will replace the aging Alum Bridge Elementary School in Lewis County and Troy Elementary School in Gilmer County.

Melissa Kimberling, a member of Leon Elementary School's PTO, said she believes the majority of Leon residents would be against consolidating the two schools.

"Leon's schools are our community. If we lose the school, we don't have a community anymore," she said. "They might as well forget our end of the county, because people aren't going to move in and put their child on a bus for an hour."

The Putnam County school board will hold a special meeting Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. to discuss personnel issues regarding the replacement of board member Debbie Phillips, who stepped down last month to focus on her new business venture, Government Solutions LLC.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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