SUPERINTENDENT INTERPRETATION
 
Interpretation's Date: February 15, 1991
by superintendent Henry Marockie
Section: III. County Educational Administration
SubSection: A. County Boards of Education

 

Interpretation

February 15, 1991

Mr. Paul E. Pinson
Attorney at Law
101 Dickinson Street
Post Office Box 440
Williamson, West Virginia 25661

Dear Mr. Pinson:

With respect to the possibility that West Williamson Elementary School may be closed and your concern about where its students will be transferred to, you have asked:

1. What is the minimum acceptable number of students which a grade school must have to remain in operation?

About twenty, according to W.Va. Code 18-5-13, which reads:

"The boards, subject to the provisions of this chapter and the rules and regulations of the state board, shall have authority:

* * * *

"(5) To close any elementary school whose average daily attendance falls below twenty pupils for two months in succession and send the pupils to other schools in the district or to schools in adjoining districts. If the teachers in the school so closed are not transferred or reassigned to other schools, they receive one month's salary . . ."

2. What is the minimum acceptable number of students which a grade school must have to justify a principal in that school?

Seventy-five or less, according to W.Va. Code 18A-2-9, where it states:

"On or before the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred ninety-three and continuing thereafter, each county board of education shall employ a full-time supervising principal at each school whose net enrollment equals or exceeds one hundred seventy students. A principal assigned to a school with a net enrollment equal to or greater than one hundred seventy students may not be assigned any teaching duties except on a temporary emergency basis.

Mr. Paul E. Pinson
February 15, 1991
Page 2

When a principal is assigned on a full-time basis to a school whose net enrollment is more than seventy-five students but less than one hundred seventy students, such principal shall have a minimum of twenty hours per week for nonteaching duties. A_principal_assigned_on_ a_full-time_basis_to_a_school_with_seventy-five_students_or_less_shall_ have_a_minimum_of_ten_hours_per_week_for_nonteaching_duties: Provided, That nothing in this section prohibits a county board of education from assigning a full-time supervising principal to a school with a net enrollment of less that one hundred seventy students." [Emphasis added.]

3. Has the West Virginia Department of Education recommended that the West Williamson Elementary School be closed?

No.

4. Does the State Department of Education have the power to approve or disapprove the School Building Authority's decision to allocate funds for school consolidations and/or closings? And in that regard, what factors might be considered as positive for maintaining a certain school in operation?

The School Building Authority may only fund projects for a county where a Comprehensive Facilities Plan is approved by the State Board of Education.

5. If the State Department of Education has the power to determine the consolidation and closing of schools, are there instances when it does not follow the local Board of Education's recommendations, and if such is the case, what are the reasons therefor?

Please refer to W.Va. Code 18-2-26, 18-9D-1 et seq., and 18-5-10, 13, and 13a. Cf. Code 18-9C-1 et seq. See also Rule number 6200 of the West Virginia Board (Handbook_On_Planning_School_Facilities). You, no doubt, as an attorney, have access to these statutes; Rule number 6200 can be gotten from the Secretary of State by writing to:

The Honorable Ken Hechler
Secretary of State
Building 1, Suite 157-K
Charleston, West Virginia 25305
Telephone number 345-4000

From these statutes and rules, you will see that a school closing begins with the county board of education, that it involves the Regional Educational Service Agency, the School Building Authority and the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education can refuse to allow a school to close; however, the reasons vary. See, for example, the State Supreme Court of Appeal's decision in the consolidated case of The_Board_of_Education_of_the_County_of_Kanawha_v._The_West_Virginia_Board_of_Education_&_State_ex_rel._Cooper_v._Marockie,_et_al, No. 19736, filed August 14, 1990, (enclosed).

Mr. Paul E. Pinson
February 15, 1991
Page 3

6. What procedure must the Board of Education of Mingo County follow in order to receive the allocation from the School Building Authority that appears to have been granted for this consolidation?

This question should be addressed to the School Building Authority by writing to:

Dr. Clacy Williams, Executive Director School Building Authority of West Virginia 1601 Kanawha Boulevard, West
Suite 202
Charleston, West Virginia 25312
Telephone number 348-2541
Fax number 348-2539

7. Are there public hearings or forums available for parents to voice their opinions regarding closure of the school attended by their children prior to final determination of closure?

Yes. Please refer to W.Va. Code 18-5-13a and Policy 6200, aforementioned.

8. Once the School Building Authority's allocation has been made, is it possible to amend the plan for consolidation without the local school board losing the grant authorized under the prior consolidation plan?

This question, too, should be addressed to the School Building Authority.

Is there a procedure for concerned citizens (parents) to appear before the West Virginia School Building Authority and allow their comments to be heard prior to the approval of a plan of consolidation?

If you wish to meet with the School Building Authority, please write or call its office at the address/telephone number listed above. Notice, perhaps, should also be taken of W.Va. Code 6-9A-3, first paragraph (the proviso).

Hoping that I have been of service, I am,

Sincerely,

/s/

Henry Marockie
State Superintendent of Schools
0055d:0001d/cf
Enclosure

cc: Mr. Everett Conn
Superintendent
Mingo County Board of Education