UPDATE: FEMA extends deadline for Nicholas County Schools plans

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NICHOLAS COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 12/28/17 @ 11:15 p.m.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has extended its deadline for plans from school leaders in Nicholas County.

Gov. Jim Justice originally requested a six-month extension but FEMA granted nine months.

The new deadline is Sept. 25, 2018. The original deadline was late December.

Nicholas County Schools is dealing with how to rebuild after flooding destroyed Richwood Middle and High School along with Summersville Middle School.

The county school board wanted to consolidate the high school. That decision was met with controversy, court battles and ultimately ended with the unraveling of the consolidation plan.

In late October, the Nicholas County and State School Boards pledged to work together to reach an agreement for the plans for new schools in Nicholas County.

According to the letter from FEMA to the governor, the organization has recognized that work and that is why the extra time to work out a plan has been granted.



UPDATE 10/20/17 @ 2:30 p.m.
Both the Nicholas County Superintendent and state Superintendent are standing together and vowing for cooperation as they enter a dispute resolution process to come up with a new plan for the future of Nicholas County Schools.

State Superintendent Steve Paine and Nicholas County Superintendent Donna Burge-Tetrick held a joint press conference Friday afternoon after the first of a series of "productive meetings" to identify a facilities resolution.

While no specific alternatives are being released, superintendent Paine says there are multiple alternatives being discussed that have not been previously considered.

"No decisions, no one plan, but I think that together we explored some innovative options that have not been considered that we have an obligation now to go back to our boards and discuss," Paine said.

Paine described the meeting as "outstanding," while Burge-Tetrick says she is "thankful" for it.

"I'm hopeful that we can come together for a resolution that increases opportunity for all students of Nicholas County while bringing economic opportunities to Richwood and I am thankful for this meeting today," Burge-Tetrick said.

This comes after a long battle between the two parties over a consolidation plan for Nicholas county.

Richwood High and Middle and Summersville Middle schools were destroyed in devastating floods.

The Nicholas County board wanted to use all FEMA flood-recovery money to rebuild schools and consolidate in the process. The plan would've merged Richwood High School, Nicholas County High School and the technical center into one facility. Students from Richwood and Summersville Middle Schools would've also been consolidated into a new school.

The WVBOE denied the county's plan to consolidate the schools and in turn the county sued the state board. The lawsuit alleged that there was political pressure from the governor's office to keep schools in Richwood.

In August, Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom ruled in favor of the county board on the basis that the state board had overstepped its own policies. But the state Supreme Court reversed the circuit decision on Oct. 10, ruling in favor of the state board.

FEMA has contracted with a dispute resolution team that will hold a meeting on Nov. 7 for all parties involved. The dispute resolution process is sponsored by the governor but conducted by FEMA.

Both parties have been encouraged to see if there are items of agreement that they can come up with in the meantime.

"We stand together today-- and I sincerely mean that-- to assure the public that we are working toward a resolution together and believe the best days in Nicholas County are yet to come," Paine said.

There are currently no guarantees for an extension on the funding from FEMA, according to Paine. The governor's office had requested the extension for the county from FEMA.

"I think that FEMA will probably watch to see that we're able to do and if they believe we're engaging in this dispute resolution process to their satisfaction then they'll consider an extension if that's in the best interest of all of us," Paine said.

The Nicholas county BOE will hold their regularly scheduled meeting Friday night. No specifics on alternatives are expected to be openly discussed, according to Burge-Tetrick.

There will be a state board meeting on Thursday that will include an update on the alternatives in executive session, according to Paine.



UPDATE 10/11/17 @ 11:35 p.m.
A group of Richwood residents have a new request for the West Virginia Board of Education, asking for a takeover of Nicholas County Schools.

Four people from the city spoke during Wednesday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

They say the county has no other hope outside of a takeover.

The request comes just a day after the state Supreme Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state board's decision to reject Nicholas County's consolidation plan.

Members of the state board gave no indication of if they would consider a takeover.



UPDATE 10/10/17 @ 4 p.m.
The West Virginia Supreme Court has upheld the state education board's authority to reject Nicholas County's plan to consolidate multiple schools into a single campus following flood damage.

In a ruling Tuesday, the court says the state board "is vested with the constitutional, statutory, and regulatory authority to exercise its discretion" in accepting or rejecting the county plan.

The Nicholas County school board proposed consolidating Summersville, Richwood and Craigsville schools into a single campus near Summersville using Federal Emergency Management Agency money from deadly 2016 floods.

It would put middle and high schools on one campus with the county's vocational education center.

State board members said the county needed to get more community input and consider alternatives.

A Kanawha County judge reversed the state. The top court reversed the judge.

The West Virginia Board of Education released the following statement following the ruling:

“The West Virginia Board of Education and State Superintendent of Schools are appreciative of the West Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling today in the Nicholas County case. We remain focused on finding a resolution that meets the best interest of all students in Nicholas County. We look forward to working cooperatively with the citizens of Nicholas County, the Nicholas County Board of Education, Governor Justice, the West Virginia Legislature and FEMA to ensure that all of the students in Nicholas County are educated in quality facilities and have access to the effective and diverse educational opportunities that all West Virginia students deserve.”

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 10/3/17 @ 8:30 p.m.
The legal battle continues over the consolidation of Nicholas County Schools.

Representatives of the state Board of Education and the Nicholas County School Board presented their arguments Tuesday morning to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

The state board voted down Nicholas County's consolidation plan after several schools were damaged in last June’s flood. As a result, the county sued the state board.

Last week a legal stay was granted, halting the consolidation process. The county board says they've followed every guideline laid out by the state but still was denied.

The state board says they had every right to deny consolidation.

Crews are on site prepping to demolish Richwood High School, one of the schools heavily damaged by flood waters.



UPDATE 9/13/17 @ 4 p.m.
NICHOLAS COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A legal stay has been granted in the lawsuit between Nicholas County Schools and the West Virginia State Board of Education.

That means the consolidation process that a Kanawha County judge approved last week cannot begin until the Supreme Court of Appeals rules on the case.

Earlier this month, the West Virginia State Board of Education voted to conditionally approve a consolidation plan presented by Nicholas County Schools.

The amendment from Nicholas County Schools includes consolidating Nicholas County High School, Richwood High School and the Career and Technical Center into one building. It would also create one building for middle school students from Summersville and Richwood.

Several of the schools were damaged in the June 2016 flood.

The WVBOE denied the county's plan to consolidate the schools and in turn the county sued the state board. The lawsuit alleged that there was political pressure from the governor's office to keep schools in Richwood.

Last month, Judge Duke Bloom ruled in favor of the county.

On Aug. 24, the WVBOE voted to appeal the judge's decision. A motion to stay Bloom's ruling was filed around then, but that's when Judge Bloom presented that state with the two options.

Also in August, Judge Bloom told the state that they needed to either conditionally approve the Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan amendment created by Nicholas County Schools or post an appeal bond for $130 million by the close of business on Monday.

The appeal bond would cover the cost if the county missed the FEMA filing date to rebuild the flood-damaged schools.



UPDATE 9/8/17 @ 2 p.m.
NICHOLAS COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia State Board of Education has voted to conditionally approve a consolidation plan presented by Nicholas County Schools.

The ruling happened Friday during a state board meeting in Morgantown.

Earlier in the week, Kanawha County Judge Duke Bloom told the state that they needed to either conditionally approve the Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan amendment created by Nicholas County Schools or post an appeal bond for $130 million by the close of business on Monday.

The appeal bond would cover the cost if the county missed the FEMA filing date to rebuild the flood damaged schools.

The amendment from Nicholas County Schools includes consolidating Nicholas County High School, Richwood High School and the Career and Technical Center into one building. It would also create one building for middle school students from Summersville and Richwood.

Several of the schools were damaged in the June 2016 flood.

The WVBOE denied the county's plan to consolidate the schools and in turn the county sued the state board. The lawsuit alleged that there was political pressure from the governor's office to keep schools in Richwood.

In August, Judge Duke Bloom ruled in favor of the county.

On August 24, the WVBOE voted to appeal the judge's decision. A motion to stay Bloom's ruling was filed earlier in the week but that's when Judge Bloom presented that state with the two options.

The motion filed by the WVBOE on Friday states, "the West Virginia Board of Education continues to maintain that it acted in the best interests of the students of Nicholas County and within the scope of its broad constitutional authority."

A release from the WVBOE says the motion with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has been filed.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for updates.



UPDATE 8/24/17 @ 11:55 a.m.
NICHOLAS COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia State Board of Education has voted to appeal a judge's decision in favor of consolidating Nicholas County Schools.

Board members met behind closed doors in executive session Thursday morning to discuss the decision. When it was over, the board came out and voted to appeal Judge Duke Bloom's decision to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

In June, a lawsuit was filed by the Nicholas County Board of Education, alleging that there was political pressure from the governor's office to keep schools in Richwood.

The plan supported by the local school board but ultimately rejected by the state school board would merge Richwood and Nicholas County High Schools, along with the Career and Technical center into one building.

The same would happen for Richwood and Summersville Middle schools.

After Thursday's vote, the board released the following statement:

“From the beginning of evaluating Nicholas County’s proposed CEFP amendment, the WVBE has focused on the best interest of all students in the county. Our decision was based on what we thought was right and within our constitutional authority as members of the State Board of Education. As such, the WVBE has decided to appeal Judge Bloom’s ruling to the West Virginia Supreme Court.”



UPDATE 8/18/17 @ 5 p.m.
NICHOLAS COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A judge has sided with Nicholas County Schools in favor of consolidating several schools in the county.

Nicholas County Schools Superintendent Donna Burge-Tetrick confirmed that Circuit Court Judge Louis H. "Duke" Bloom ruled in favor of Nicholas County Schools.

Tetrick said she and other school officials are hopeful they'll be able to move forward with building the new schools.

The judicial ruling follows considerable discord among the community, including some elected officials, about consolidation. Richwood Mayor Bob Henry Baber, PhD., has been an advocate for keeping the schools in his city since the flooding destroyed them in June 2016.

In June, a lawsuit was filed by the Nicholas County Board of Education, alleging that there was political pressure from the governor's office to keep schools in Richwood.

The plan supported by the local school board but ultimately rejected by the state school board would merge Richwood and Nicholas County High Schools, along with the Career and Technical center into one building.

The same would happen for Richwood and Summersville Middle schools.

A campus in Glade Creek was being considered for the site of the new campus.



UPDATE 6/30/17 @ 12:05 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The man who is leading the charge to fight school consolidation in Nicholas County is responding to a lawsuit filed about the situation.

Richwood Mayor Bob Henry Baber, PhD., has been an advocate for keeping the schools in his city since the flooding destroyed them in June 2016.

The plan supported by the local school board but ultimately rejected by the state school board would merge Richwood and Nicholas County High Schools, along with the Career and Technical center into one building.

The same would happen for Richwood and Summersville Middle schools.

A campus in Glade Creek was being considered for the site of the new campus.

Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed by the Nicholas County Board of Education, alleging that there was political pressure from the governor's office to keep schools in Richwood.

The lawsuit also alleges that the West Virginia State Superintendent also misled his board members prior to their vote rejecting the county's plan for consolidation.

Thursday, Mayor Baber responded to the lawsuit.

"We're now into, frankly, children stomping their feet because they can't stay up late or have their way. There's enough money for everybody to move forward if they would come to the table with honor and generosity. instead, they want to have everything in Summersville," Baber said.

A date for the a hearing on the matter in Kanawha County Circuit Court has not been set at this time.



UPDATE 6/28/17 @ 10:50 p.m.
NICHOLAS COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The battle over consolidation in Nicholas County is back in the hands of a judge.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of the local school board alleges there was political pressure from the governor's office to keep schools in Richwood, rather than consolidate outside of city limits following the flooding that destroyed several schools last summer.

The suit also alleges the state superintendent gave his board members misleading information ahead of their vote to reject the county's consolidation plan.

Gov. Jim Justice's spokesperson released the following statement:

“The Governor and his office stayed completely out of the state Board of Education’s decision on Nicholas County. It was never the Governor’s decision to make.”

NIcholas County Superintendent Donna Burge-Tetrick released the following statement:

"It is unfortunate that we had to involve the court in a local school board issue. We are hopeful that the State Board of Education will invite the Nicholas County Board of Education back to a special meeting scheduled to reconsider the school closure/consolidation and CEFP amendment.

"The State Board members will gain full knowledge of the depth and breadth of the options considered by the local board. They will also learn how the path chosen by the local board of education met the requirements of the State Board policy and was chosen by the local board of education as being in the best interest of the students of Nicholas County."



UPDATE 6/13/17 @ 4:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia State School Board has rejected a plan to consolidate several schools in Nicholas County.

The plan would've merged Richwood High School, Nicholas County High School and the technical center into one facility. Students from Richwood and Summersville Middle Schools would've also been consolidated into a new school.

The board voted 7-1 to reject the plan.

It was an emotional meeting, with several people from the area speaking against the merger to the board.

Following last year's deadly flooding, school leaders decided not to open Richwood High because of damage.

The State School Board encouraged the Nicholas County Board of Education to think of new ideas.



ORIGINAL STORY 3/7/17
NICHOLAS COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Five schools will be consolidated in Nicholas County.

According to Richwood Mayor Dr. Bob Henry Baber, board members made the decision in 5-0 vote Tuesday night.

The plan will put Nicholas County High School, Richwood High School and the Career and Technical Center under one roof.

Summersville and Richwood Middle Schools also will be consolidated.

Following the June 23 flooding, school leaders decided not to reopen Richwood High School because of the extent of the damage.

The plan would also merge Summersville and Richwood Middle School into one middle school. Both schools were heavily damaged in flooding, as well.

Superintendent Dr. Donna Burge-Tetrick has proposed putting the two schools on one campus in the Glade Creek area.

The damage from the June flooding, aging buildings and declining enrollment are three reasons why she believes the $130 million project could actually save the county money in the long run.

Baber has been an outspoken critic of his community losing its schools.



 
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