ED-WATCH: GILBERT HIGH SCHOOL WILL GET $1 MILLION - Squeeze Into 'Badlands High School'


Mingo school board member Charles Sanford West calls Mingo's
proposed consolidated school "Badlands High," because it will
be located on a remote, still active strip site about 8-10 miles
from a paved road deep in the woods on a Red Jacket mountain

By Bob Weaver

The WV State Board of Education is telling Mingo County officials they are hoping to allocate another $1 million to squeeze Gilbert High School into the state's consolidated school on a remote strip mine site.

Four of Mingo County's school board members, anti-consolidation members elected by the voters, have expressed concerns about how the giant project will be funded.

Charles Sanford West (right) former Mayor of Williamson and a new board member, said "I really don't see how that's a drop in the bucket."

West is concerned about millions more that will be needed to reach the goals of a long-term facilities plan.

"They ought to name it Badlands High School," West said, citing long bus rides and concession-driven "donated" strip mine land near the proposed King Coal Highway, a remote area about 8-10 miles from a paved road.

Board member William 'Bill' Duty (left) says the consolidated school is being used as an economic development engine.

The Bluefield Telegraph says at the present rate of appropriations, the $1.6 billion King Coal Highway will be completed in 36 years.

The SBA is allocating $18 million for the new Mingo school, but Duty says "My list of unanswered questions continues to grow.

"I'm bewildered about how Mingo can pay for this. It appears to be costing well in excess of $50 million," he said, not including rapidly increasing construction costs. The school could be built by 2010.

The Mingo County school board has been under state control for poor performance, during which time the state board and the SBA has implemented the consolidation of Williamson, Burch, Matewan, Mingo Technical Center and more recently Gilbert High.

Mingo school board members still need to chip in a portion of their own money to go beyond school building authority limitations, said Steven Paine (right) State Superintendent of Schools.

The SBA limits the size of gymnasiums, auditoriums and the development of sports facilities, unless a local school system is willing to foot the bill.

State appointed superintendent Dwight Dials said "Let's do it right the first time."

West said there are school site and roadwork problems, besides thrusting many county students into long bus rides, in some cases over several hair-pin turn mountains frequently traveled by coal trucks who are obligated to drive over center lines.

Paine said the state Board of Education has now been court-ordered to build the consolidated school, following numerous court battles with Mingo board members and citizens.