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Putnam, Mason cancel joint school proposal

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam and Mason County schools have chosen not to go forward with a joint school project that would have combined Leon and Buffalo elementary schools.

"My understanding is that [Mason County] called a special meeting and had some people from the school district or area speak against it," said Putnam Superintendent Chuck Hatfield. "They decided not to do it right now."

The joint school would have cost an estimated $13 million. The cost of rebuilding both schools was an estimated $25 million, and the two projects individually did not meet the economies of scale the School Building Authority looks for in its projects.

SBA director Mark Manchin told the Putnam board earlier this year that a potential plan would need to be drafted by December, and both boards and their county superintendents were present for a regular Putnam County Board of Education meeting in Winfield on Oct. 21.

"If they're not on board, they're not on board," Hatfield said.

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. The SBA has denied funding to renovate Leon Elementary in previous years, but Putnam officials have never asked the agency for funding for Buffalo, according to Hatfield.

"It's an older building. It's a 1950s building, and it certainly could use some improvements, but it's certainly not in dire need," he said. "We've done some things, and we'll continue to improve it. We've put new tile down. We've installed new ceiling tile and different things."

The board also voted to partner with West Virginia State University's education program to allow education students to teach courses in Putnam County Schools under university supervision.

"It will allow us, in times when we cannot find a fully certified substitute in a specific area, that we can actually -- and this has been agreed upon by the state Department of Education -- enter into a teacher-in-residence partnership and have those students come in to teach a class under direct supervision from the university," Hatfield said.

Also Monday, Tom Jackson, a parent of a Hurricane Middle School student on the boys basketball team, approached the council to discuss issues concerning the level of support the team receives from the school's administration. Jackson said his wife, Suzette, took over the position of coach this year, and she has been met with opposition from the school.

"Since she's taken the job, she's gotten little to no cooperation from the school administration. Everything she's asked for, they've told her no," he said.

Jackson said the tipping point was when administrators told his wife she could not have a parent volunteer help the team. Other teams at the school, including the girls basketball team, have been allowed a parent volunteer for the current school year.

"She can't even get an answer from the administration as to why she can't have a parent volunteer," he said. "We're all part of this community. I moved here because of the schools. We wanted our kids to go to the best schools. I'm shocked that this stuff still goes on.

"I don't know if it's because she's a woman coaching a boys' sport, but it appears that something's not right."

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


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