No To A 705/Mileground Intersection School

Elementary School Size in Monongalia County, 2005-2012

(See also: Let’s Play in Traffic, Kids! and Warning! Hazard! an21-25 Million Dollars And No Sense)

UPDATE: At the 705/119 Mileground intersection site, Mon Schools bought 8.85 acres from WVU for about $2.9 million, then bought an additional adjacent 2.5 acres from the Mileground Mobile Home Park for about $800,000, then spent about $1 million to mitigate the mine voids that underlie both properties, anywhere from a dozen to a few dozen feet below the surface. That’s nearly $5 million spent on land acquisition and mine mitigation, none of which would have been spent if a new school had been rebuilt on the existing Woodburn schoolgrounds. West Taylor Elementary was built a few years ago by Mon School’s architects for $6.6 million. West Taylor’s capacity is 300 students, nearly 100 more students than attend Woodburn Elementary, and only about 70 fewer student than attended Woodburn and Easton Elementaries combined, last year. The consolidated Eastwood Elementary on the Mileground is projected to cost $21 million or more, in a colossal mismanagement and waste of funds, at an illicit and potentially lethal site. $6.6 million versus $21 million – what’s wrong with this picture? The school district could sell that land and switch to a safer, better site and save money. And it should.

The Mileground school site is undermined a few dozen feet below ground, mines that receive direct the sewage from the trailer park to be purchased for the site, a trailer park with polluted surface land as well that lost its county health license a few years ago. (The back acres of the school grounds at the level of the mine portals and sewage dump are to hold a bio-retention pond, for nature study! as well as possibly a nature trail.) As of March 2011, the school district has not tested the soil within the trailer park, despite the sewage dump, despite a suspected old septic drainage field, despite a plethora of solid waste, despite the intended play field for the grade school children.

The school site borders principal arterial highways and their intersection, so it is vehicle-exhaust polluted and noise polluted, and traffic crash dangerous, one of the most dangerous intersections in the entire region according to study. The arterial highways are worst level congested and thus slated for an expansion to four lanes, divided, in 2014/2015 by DOH, a $40,000,000 project to be constructed one or two years after the pre-K thru 5th grade school would open – placing the arterial highways’ intersection a mere football field length, if that, from the front doors of the school, and essentially in the school site itself. In fact, part of the school site would need be surrendered to the WV Division of Highways for the impending highway expansion and shift to and upon the school grounds. The highway expansion cannot eliminate the traffic congestion, note the highway project consultants, who further project an increase in traffic by at least 50 percent in the first couple decades of the new school. The school is a $21,000,000, 545 seat, dangerous boondoggle of a project, partially funded by the WV School Building Authority, and is, as we allege, variously unlawful. A major gas station has expressed strong interest in siting next to the intended school, the icing on the cake of the negligent school siting at this congested, polluted, expensive (~$325,000.00 per acre for 11.5 acres), and all around dangerous commuter and commercial intersection.

Does a new school at the Mileground intersection not potentially threaten Suncrest Elementary with closing? And does it not likely mean that Easton area students will sooner or later windup in an expanded Mileground school the size of Cheat Lake Elementary, or larger?

The viable alternative is to build a new combined school at the Woodburn site for both Woodburn and Easton students, which would have the good benefit of disallowing any such future expansion, due to site constraints.  Even so, a combined Woodburn-Easton school on revitalized Woodburn grounds would already be double the size of the current Woodburn student body, and even moreso than the current Easton student body. However, the fortuitous Woodburn site constraints would prevent futher expansion.

This would not be the case with a Mileground intersection school. A new combined school there could expand greatly, and the stark recent trends of the Monongalia County School District show that the Mileground school would very likely expand. In other words, Easton area parents and students who wish to avoid attending a very large school, whether at Cheat Lake Elementary or North Elementary or the likely to expand proposed Mileground school, would find a relatively small school only at a revitalized Woodburn site, probably nowhere else.

Since the proposed Mileground school may likely rapidly expand, and because it is an echo chamber of constant speeding traffic, and because the intersection area is polluted and congested, and because it is a commercial sprawl school, and because it is no closer and in the future likely no smaller than Cheat Lake Elementary, why would Easton and Cheat Lake students and parents prefer that large and poorly sited school to, either, attending Cheat Lake Elementary with its much more hospitable site, or, traveling a single extra mile to the green and quiet neighborhood of Woodburn? The Woodburn site is fully accommodating for a combined school with Easton, and its pocketed residential location forces the school size to remain relatively small, unlike the Mileground site.

An expanded school at the Mileground intersection would allow the possibility of closing Suncrest Elementary because Suncrest students could be simply moved to nearby North Elementary, many of whose students could go to the Mileground School. For this and other reasons, it would benefit Suncrest school supporters to support the Easton and Woodburn schools combining at a revitalized Woodburn site rather than the Mileground intersection site.

Data compiled from the Monongalia County School District web pages show that in the past 5 years (2005-2010) the number of elementary schools has shrunk from 15 to 11, and the average elementary student body size has increased by 55 percent. During those same five years, the total elementary student body has increased 13 percent, per the information available online, as listed below.

It’s time for the school district to start building additional schools, or at least holding the line, rather than continuing to reduce the number of elementary schools, for many reasons, including current crowding, the well-established many benefits of neighborhood schools and small schools, public preference, and so on. The financial capacity to do so seems to exist as well. Moreover, it needs to exist.

All else the same, consolidating Woodburn and Easton would drop the number of elementary schools from 15 to 10 in the seven year period of 2005-2012, for an average increase in elementary school student body size of 70 percent, in seven years, district-wide. Ten elementary schools would be down from 20 elementary schools in 1998. When and where does it stop? Such consolidation has occurred not only in Monongalia County but statewide under the force of the West Virginia School Building Authority, since its founding in 1989.

For controlling runaway student body size in the elementary schools in Monongalia County, there seems to be only one way left: force schools to be built where they can be fully accommodated but not expanded. Suncrest, Easton, and Woodburn school parents and communities should insist that the Easton/Woodburn consolidation occur on the accommodating, and containing, revitalized Woodburn site. See the incredible stats on consolidation and expansion below.

Building a school at the Mileground intersection with 705 destroys Woodburn, uses Easton, and threatens Suncrest.

Monongalia County Elementary School Enrollment,2005 & 2010:

2005 – 2010
Arnettsville Elementary 89   –  cons closed
Brookhaven Elementary 438   – 454 4% incr
Cass Elementary 227   –  cons closed
Cheat Lake Elementary 570   – 644 13% incr
Daybrook Elementary 79   –  cons closed
Easton Elementary 111   – 176 63% incr: to be closed
Mason Dixon Elementary 351   – 344 2% decr
Mountainview Elementary 629   – 758 21% incr
Mylan Park Elementary n/a   – 491 new
North Elementary 619   – 700 14% incr
Ridgedale Elementary 285   – 403 41% incr
Riverside Elementary 197   –  cons closed
Skyview Elementary n/a   – 452 new
Suncrest Primary 164   – 257 57% incr
Waitman Barbe Elementary 88   –  cons closed
Westover Elementary 267   –  cons closed
Woodburn Elementary 210 –  227 8% incr: to be closed
total 4324  – 4906 13% incr
average student body size for the 15 schools in 2005 and the 11 schools in 2010 288  – 446 55% incr/5yrs
average given Woodburn-Easton consolidation by 2012 [all other data unchanged] 288  – 491 70% incr/7yrs
average for the Morgantown area [minus Mason Dixon and Daybrook Elementaries] 2005-2010 300  – 456 52% incr/5yrs
average for the Morgantown area [minus Mason Dixon & Daybrook Elementaries] 2005-2012 300  – 507 69% incr/7yrs

Enrollment figures compiled from Monongolia County Schools website: http://boe.mono.k12.

NOTE: Woodburn Elementary’s enrollment numbers above include 20 children who attend pre-school care off campus and who are planned to continue do so after a new school is built.

State law requires that the public schools pay for a certain number of pre-school students at off-campus sites so as not to destroy the pre-school centers that existed prior to the recent passage of state law requiring all public schools for provide pre-school care.

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