IT ONLY MAKES SENSE
A new green school should be built on revitalized Woodburn school grounds (slightly expanded) for educational, environmental, and financial reasons. The new school would combine the roughly 400 students of Woodburn and Easton Elementary.
To control runaway student body size, concerned citizens can insist that schools be built where they can be fully accommodated but not rashly expanded. One short mile from the proposed Mileground location sits the neighborhood Woodburn site, inviting for a combined school and with a pocketed residential location that can help prevent irresponsible expansion, unlike a school at the Mileground, which could be readily expanded from 450 students to double that.
The choice is between sending elementary children to a quiet, well-sized neighborhood school of 400-450 students or sending them to a potentially immense school on the soon-to-be expanded commuter and commercial highway intersection of the Mileground.
In the past five years, the Monongalia County school district has reduced the number of elementary schools from 15 to 11 (soon to be 10). Enrollment data shows that elementary student body size has increased 55 percent in Monongalia County in those five years, 2005-2010. (That is, each elementary school on average holds 55 percent more students than five years ago.) Given the impending Easton-Woodburn consolidation, average elementary student body size would increase about 70 percent in seven years. The district continues to close schools and to increase the number of students in those that remain, even though some of these schools are overcrowded.
The large body of educational research confirms that small schools and neighborhood schools improve educational outcomes, increase parental involvement, allow for more student participation in extracurricular activities, and help reduce bullying. Does this mean that teachers do not strongly influence these matters? Of course they do. But students should be provided as many advantages as possible, especially an environment that holistically facilitates good educational practices.
Then there’s the money, the multimillion dollar question: Why would the county school district pay WVU $2.275-2.6 MILLION to site the Woodburn/Easton consolidation on WVU’s 7 or 8 acres at the Mileground intersection with 705? Never mind, for the moment, that the Mileground intersection site is a horrible location for small children, for learning and playing. Why pay the University millions for land, when, as the Woodburn Community School Initiative (newwoodburncommunityschool.org) has demonstrated, the school district can build a great green school on land the district already owns?
Even if the school district would sell off the four-acre Woodburn site, that would still leave a flood of public money, a million dollars or more, moving from the local school district to WVU for nothing but 7 or 8 acres of deficient land. The Mileground intersection headache should not be taken on for free, let alone paid dearly for. The Mileground intersection is no place for a green school, though it is a great place to show off what NOT to do.
We can build a more financially sound school, a more environmentally impressive school, and one far more likely to achieve national recognition. A combined Easton-Woodburn school on revitalized Woodburn grounds is the most exciting, most creative, and most responsible option.