Summers Middle School students will remain at Summers County High, following the West Virginia Board of Education’s Wednesday vote to permanently close the middle school.
In August, before the school year began, the state school board initially approved moving the middle school students into the high school.
The state board’s vote Wednesday was to approve permanently closing the middle school and consolidating the middle and high schoolers into the high school building.
The middle school has had about 340 students in each of the past three years, and the high school has had 440. Their buildings were 3 miles apart.
New Summers schools Superintendent David Warvel previously said he saw issues at the middle school building on his second day in the job.
Among the issues, Warvel said asbestos problems could be compounded by a roof that wouldn’t keep precipitation from seeping in.
Summers Board of Education President Stan Duncan said Wednesday the building was built in 1925 and was the old Hinton High.
“When we went in there,” Duncan said of himself and Warvel, “there were kiddie pools sitting around catching water from the leaking roof.”
Duncan said experts said renovations would require making the building Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible, and renovation estimates ran up to $6 million or more.
“It just had been let go for far too long,” he said.
The high school is at the north tip of Hinton, but the middle school building that’s closing is in the middle of downtown. Duncan said the county school system is exploring possible futures for the location, but he said it would be “premature” to discuss them now.
As for the high school building, which will now include grades 6 through 12, Duncan said the school system hopes to add classrooms, another gym and another cafeteria. Ultimately, he said, the high school-aged kids will be “totally separate from the kids 6-8.”
Generally, in order for schools to shutter, a county Board of Education must approve the closure and the state board must choose to sign off.
The state board approval isn’t required when school closures are approved by a county’s voters as part of a vote to approve a school bond. Hampshire County’s superintendent said that was the case for the five elementary schools his county is closing and consolidating.