When they closed high schools, county officials promised new advanced courses and more extracurricular activities for their students.
They had less to offer elementary students whose schools faced the consolidation ax.
New computer labs, in some cases. Fewer split-grade classrooms. Art, music, gym and special education teachers who worked exclusively in the schools. Full-time librarians. Full-time counselors.
�It enhances services, but you can�t say it enhances it like at a secondary school,� said Leonard Allen, an assistant superintendent in Kanawha County, where more than a dozen elementary schools have closed in the past three years.
In the last decade, more than two-thirds of all school closings involved elementary schools.
Elementary schools are targeted for consolidation even more in the next eight years: Four of every five schools scheduled to close, 110 schools, serve elementary students.
Young children lose more than they gain in most school consolidations, said Doris Williams, a researcher with the Rural School and Community Trust.
Long bus rides hurt elementary children the most, she said. They make them tired and steal valuable learning time.
More than two-thirds of bus runs carrying elementary students are too long to meet state guidelines of 30 minutes each way, according to a Gazette-Mail analysis of bus logs in 35 rural West Virginia counties.
Also, younger students need their parents to be involved in their education even more than older students, she said.