Mason, Putnam schools explore consolidation options

Agnes Hapka

October 11, 2013

MASON COUNTY — Mason County Schools Superintendent Suzanne Dickens has said that, at the moment, there is no plan in place to build a consolidated elementary school between Mason and Putnam County Schools.

Dickens said that although the superintendent of Putnam County Schools has made the suggestion, no agreement has been reached.

“Putnam has approached Mason County about a joint venture, but at this time, a decision has not been made to proceed,” Dickens said in returned emails to The Point Pleasant Register earlier this week.

Harold Hatfield, superintendent of Putnam County Schools, said that the idea is still in the inception stage.

“We’ve had conversations with Mason County Schools’ superintendent, but it’s just an exploration,” Hatfield said.

The proposed plan would consolidate the Leon and Buffalo Elementary Schools in a new facility, rather than renovating each or building two new schools.

Hatfield added that one advantage of the would-be project is geographical; the Leon community, he said, is closer to Buffalo than to Point Pleasant.

Hatfield mentioned that a similar project is already in progress in West Virginia.

“The school districts of Gilmer and Lewis have a similar project between them,” said Hatfield.

Hatfield said that Mark Manchin of the West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) has encouraged Putnam County Schools to identify an architectural firm in case of an agreement between Putnam and Mason County Schools. Manchin has said that the cost of building a new consolidated elementary school would likely be less than the cost of renovation or building two new elementary schools, and that the SBA has funds earmarked for rebuilding and refurbishing projects over the next two years.

The Putnam board has identified Williams Shriver Architects, Inc.; board members voted on Monday night to contract services with the firm.

“We have identified the firm to explore the possibilities,” Hatfield said, “in the event that we do move forward with the consolidation.”

Hatfield added that plans have been made for a future meeting between the two school districts.

“We’re just seeing if there’s an opportunity to work together,” concluded Hatfield.