(01/22/2009)
The Sand Fork Elementary School will have a community meeting tonight at 6 p.m. related to rumors that are circulating about possible closure of the school.

The meeting has been prompted following an on-site evaluation by state school officials in December which has reportedly indicated structural problems with the Gilmer County community school.

The state also visited Troy Elementary School, then sending a letter to superintendent Ed Toman about the problems.

The letter was given to Gilmer school board members last week.

School board member Misty Pritt said the board has not taken any official action, but has been hearing from community members about their concerns following news of the inspection.

Toman told board members he did not initiate the inspections.

Toman and state officials attempted to close Normantown Elementary School over a mold problem and transport students to Glenville.

A wide-spread community effort has prevented that consolidation effort, with students currently being taught in modular units.

Gilmer has three rural elementary schools, Normantown, Sand Fork and Troy.

Preston County officials have just closed South Preston Middle School in Tunnelton, pending a review of how to address that facility's structural problems.

Preston County Board of Education President Jack Keim says a letter from state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine warned the county to have students out of the building by Feb. 12.

The school's 48 sixth-graders will be moved to Tunnelton-Denver Elementary School, while the other 114 students will be instructed in a separate gym building at the middle school.

Paine's letter says the students should be relocated while the board decides what to do about the 95-year-old building.

The board has asked engineers from West Virginia University to inspect the school.

Following the wholesale closure of several hundred community high schools in the state, Challenge WV coordinator Thomas Ramey says the state is now targeting 120 elementary schools.

"Many of the closures have created very long bus rides for rural children," he said, including pre-school students 3-4 years old.

Read earlier Herald stories.


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