State school board approves closure of Fayette County elementary school

GAULEY BRIDGE, W.Va. — The state Board of Education has approved the closure of Gauley Bridge Elementary in Fayette County.

During its Wednesday meeting, the board approved the closure and consolidate it with Valley PK-8. Board members nothing this was a part of the county’s plans for 2020-2030 that was approved by the body in January.

“If we had an expanding enrollment, it would be a different situation. but we don’t, it’s been declining for decades,” board member Tom Campbell said.

Enrollment was one of the main factors for closure as it’s been on the decline for several years. The Register-Herald in Beckley reported in November that enrollment sat at 77 in Oct. 2020 and the enrollment when the closure document was prepared had fallen to 52. The final report given Wednesday noted the school is down to 48 students.

Closure hearings were held both at Gauley Bridge and Valley PK-8 in early November and the Fayette County School Board approved the closure November 4, in a 5-0 vote.

Fayette County Superintendent Gary Hough noted the decline in enrollment and said in some cases, parents have already began the transition to Valley PK-8 in Smithers.

“The only school that was remaining in the valley was Gauley Bridge. If you look at the numbers and the way they dropped, what happened was parents making those choices,” Hough said.

The county says the request will improve academic offerings, operational costs and overall efficiencies. The county the cost of repairs to the 45-year old building would not be worth finances.