CLINTWOOD — Following a brief closed session at its regular meeting Monday, Dickenson County supervisors moved to hire Thompson and Litton to conduct a site analysis to determine the cost of building a new elementary school near the current location of Sandlick Elementary School.
All supervisors were in favor except for Kenady District Supervisor Shelbie Willis, who has remained steadfast that the decision of the school’s location belongs to the Dickenson County School Board.
The Monday night vote came with no public discussion nor commentary. The board had convened in closed session to discuss a personnel matter and to consult with its attorney regarding mediation and investment.
Supervisors, the school board and Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority convened in a closed-door mediation April 30 in hopes of finding resolution to their stalemate on the school location but did not succeed. The status of a binding resolution the three adopted that night on a path forward remains unclear.
Tearing down Sandlick Elementary was one condition of Dickenson County receiving more than a hundred million dollars in funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built the consolidated Ridgeview schools on Rose Ridge. Sandlick is located in a flood plain and flood way.
The majority of supervisors favor a school location near Haysi, as was originally planned, while the majority of school board members lean toward building an elementary school on the Ridgeview campus, although it is unclear whether that would be a consolidated school. A consolidated elementary school there is the most expensive of all options that have been proposed. All three boards have said they prefer three small schools but how to pay for them all over the long-haul has never been resolved.
The school board dropped consideration of the remaining Haysi centric location at Upper Backbone Ridge when cost estimates exceeded the amount of money remaining.
Subsequently, supervisors devised the Sandlick property as a fourth option after learning from the Corps of Engineers that site would be acceptable to them as long as the school building itself was built out of the flood plain.
Thompson and Litton conducted the original assessment of the Upper Backbone location and a subsequent site selection study of that site as well as Ridgeview and Clinchco.
Building a new school on property the division owns in Clinchco has never gained traction despite repeated arguments by Mayor Jarvis Deel and citizen Don Hill that that location is most central to the most students and, consequently, would be the most safe for transporting students and most cost efficient for county taxpayers. The land once was home to Clinchco Elementary, which, like Ervinton High School, was torn down as part of the final agreement with the Corps.