CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fayette County's school system won't move forward with plans to close its smallest high school, Meadow Bridge High, after the state Board of Education voted Wednesday to block the county from doing so.
The state board voted to amend Fayette County's 10-year facilities plan -- which included plans to merge three of the county's high schools, including Meadow Bridge as well as Fayetteville and Midland Trail, sending kids from Meadow Bridge and Fayetteville to a renovated school at Midland Trail.
Fayette County's school district has been under state control since 2010 because of management and facilities issues.
The facilities plan included renovations and building projects to bring the county's facilities up to par, as well as consolidation plans: the school currently operates five high schools, a number that officials say is inefficient for a county of its size.
Since the board's decision, the plan now excludes the possibility of consolidating Meadow Bridge, which sits on the eastern edge of rural Fayette County.
The board bowed to concerns from community members worried about the ramifications of the consolidation plan, especially what they believe would be exorbitantly long bus rides. The board wants the county to take a year to study the county and examine other methods to educate students in Meadow Bridge's attendance zone before it goes forward with the consolidation.
"As you do that, I plan to be behind you so close that your chest will hurt," said board president Gayle Manchin. "In trying to work through what are the best opportunities for the children of Fayette County, and included in that the children of Meadow Bridge High School, I believe there were options that were not fully explored."
The consolidation issue is a hot button item in the region, and Wednesday's board meeting was packed with Fayette County residents who came to try to sway the board's vote on the consolidation one way or another.
Carolyn Arritt, a Meadow Bridge resident and former educator, has come to dozens of state Board of Education meetings to urge board members not to close Meadow Bridge.