Kanawha BOE talks potential bond levy as enrollment falls

A bond levy may be considered in Kanawha County where public school enrollment has been dwindling.
Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 10:25 PM EDT
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - As enrollment dwindles in Kanawha County Schools, district officials are weighing their options for how to keep schools running efficiently for students.

One of those options could come in the form of a bond levy.

The Kanawha County Board of Education had its first discussion Monday night about the possibility of adding a bond levy to next November’s ballot.

District Superintendent Dr. Tom Williams said the district has lost about 4,000 students during the last decade.

In May of 2023, to address some of the strains associated with the loss, the board voted to close Marmet Elementary, Grandview Elementary and Weimer Elementary to consolidate each school with a neighboring one already in use.

As enrollment keeps trending down, Williams said Monday that future consolidations cannot happen in the same way because the remaining schools in the county would be overcrowded.

“We would either need to add to a facility, or we would need to build a completely new facility to put the kids in,” he explained. “There wouldn’t be room, we couldn’t do it but when you have schools that are continuing to decline in population, then it makes sense to put two or three of the schools together and put them in a brand new facility.”

In order to explore those options, Williams said the board would need to float a bond.

“If the board makes a decision to move forward, we would start doing drawings of what a potential building would look like, make decisions on which areas they want to do a consolidation and those types things,” he said.

Next would come consolidation hearings which would be conducted by the board in schools being considered for closure. The consolidations would be voted on by the board pending the bond’s approval.

“The bonds that are bought would have to be paid back, and there’s an interest rate on the bonds and so the county taxpayers would be responsible for paying back, that it would be an increase in their taxes. Not sure how much, but it would be like the excess Levy,” Williams said. “It would be over the course of several years.”

No schools were specifically named Monday night to be considered for future consolidation.

There is no timeline in place for the next discussion and a vote from the board about adding the bond levy as bond counselors and other factors are considered.

Williams said the top priority is making decisions in students’ best interest.

“I think it’s an exciting time if your area would be one of the ones selected to receive a new school,” he said. “People are always afraid to change, and we have our kids best interests at heart and that for our staff, and so we want them to be in a nice facility. But we also have to look at, at our finances, we have to make sure that we have the funds to continue to operate. And when we keep losing children the way we have in the last 10 years, we can’t continue to do that and maintain all the buildings that we have.”

At the end of this school year, Marmet Elementary will close and merge with Chesapeake Elementary, Grandview Elementary will close and move students to Mary C. Snow Elementary, Weimer Elementary will close and students will be split into Alban Elementary or Bridgeview Elementary.