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Officials discuss new cross-county school behind closed doors

By Kara Moore

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Mason and Putnam counties' boards of education met behind closed doors for almost an hour Monday night, ostensibly discussing a possible cross-county elementary consolidation.

When they emerged, the Mason County board quickly adjourned, thanked the Putnam board for inviting them and left.

William "Butch" Legg, president of the Putnam board, told the remaining audience that nothing had been decided.

The project in question would consolidate Buffalo Elementary in Putnam County with Leon Elementary and Mason County with the state School Building Authority footing most of the bill.

Mason has asked the authority for funding to replace or renovate Leon for the last several years without success. The school is too small to meet the authority's "economy of scale" requirement. A consolidated school would.

But the authority would be especially likely to fund a school that crossed county lines, said Executive Director Mark Manchin, who attended Putnam County's last board meeting to talk about the potential for the project.

Several Mason County residents attended Monday's meeting in Winfield, including Parent Teacher Organization member Melissa Kimberling.

Kimberling, whose children have now graduated from Point Pleasant High School, has been on the PTO for more than 20 years.

She doesn't want to see Leon close.

"If we lose the school, we lose the community," Kimberling said.

The Mason County board convened their meeting Monday night at their board office before moving to Putnam County. Kimberling attended that part of the meeting, and pressed the board on whether they would support the consolidation.

She said Mason County board members assured her they would only support the new school if it were located in Mason County.

Legg said no one made any such ultimatums during the executive session.

"I think we made progress to this point: That we decided there has to be a decision made within the next two weeks. By our next board meeting, Nov. 4, then by that point in time we will know whether we're going to go with it or we're going to drop it."

The agenda listed the purpose of the executive session as "to discuss land acquisition."

"There's discussion on several possible sites," Hatfield said.

Legg said he couldn't answer whether he would support putting the school in Mason County yet.

"If you asked me point blank 'Putnam County or Mason County,' naturally I'm going to say Putnam County," Legg said.

Hatfield said the community in Buffalo is aware of the project but he hasn't heard from residents who are for or against it.

"We've intentionally not done a whole lot at this point because no decision has been made," Hatfield said.





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