MASON COUNTY — The reaction from parents, teachers and members of the Leon community was overwhelmingly positive when Randy Searls announced the Mason County Board of Education’s decision to not move ahead with a school consolidation.
Searls made the announcement at the board’s special property meeting Tuesday night.
The consolidation discussion began earlier in the year when Putnam County’s Board of Education approached Mason County with a proposition: to build a new elementary school for children of Leon and Buffalo, rather than renovate the existing schools.
Leon Elementary School, then, would have been closed and a new school built with funds from the West Virginia School Building Authority.
After an executive session at Tuesday’s meeting, the school board decided not to move ahead with the plan; board president Searls cited a shortage of information on the logistics of the consolidation.
“The Mason County Board of Education has been offered what could be a great opportunity for the students of Leon,” said Searls. “The decision that’s been made tonight was not made by myself or the board members, it was made by the community. I appreciate the community. Due to the time constraints and not having enough complete information concerning this project, this board has decided to not move forward.”
The announcement was met by applause from those gathered.
Pam Hay, teacher at the school, expressed her feelings on the matter.
“Because we’re such a small school, we know every child’s need. I don’t think they could get the attention (at a larger, consolidated school) that we can give them now,” Hay said.
Hay added that she and other teachers had feared that class sizes would increase under the proposed consolidation.
“We know every kid, their personal situation and what they need. I don’t think they’ll get that at a bigger school,” said Hay, adding that Leon’s school is a community center of sorts for the whole town.
Community member Kenneth Blessing agreed.
“I think it’s great that they’re keeping it open, for the community, as well,” said Blessing.
Bruce Kerr, who taught sixth grade at Leon Elementary for 40 years, said he was very pleased with the outcome.
“I’ve got former students in that crowd,” he said, referring to community members who attended the meeting, “There are a lot of good people at Leon, and lot of good students there now.”
“And a small school is not a bad thing,” Kerr concluded.