VIRGINIA (WFXR) — On Thursday, the Virginia Board of Education approved a request to consolidate Alleghany County Public Schools and Covington Public Schools — two of Virginia’s smallest school divisions in terms of enrollment — into a single school division by July 1, 2022.
According to a statement released by the Virginia Department of Education on Thursday, Jan. 28, the Alleghany County and Covington school boards formed a Joint Committee on School Consolidation to develop a consolidation plan back in 2019 due to concerns in both divisions about declining enrollment, especially recognition of the potential advantages of pooling of resources as a means of expanding opportunities for students.
Both localities held public hearings in September before the proposal to combine the two divisions under a single school board and the superintendent was formally presented to the state Board of Education in November.
Both the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors and the Covington City Council reportedly adopted resolutions endorsing the merger.
According to officials, under the consolidation plan, Alleghany County and Covington City students will be merged at the start of the 2023-2024 school year into a single student body of approximately 2,000 students.
Even though the four existing county and city elementary schools will stay open, the department says the consolidated division only have one middle school set up in the current Covington High School building and one high school, which will be housed in the current Alleghany High School building.
“I congratulate everyone involved in this process — school board members, the division superintendents, community leaders, local government officials, parents, and students — for their vision in creating a plan to expand opportunities for students in both the county and the city,” Board of Education President Daniel Gecker said.
Officials say Article VIII of the Constitution of Virginia authorizes the Board of Education to divide the Commonwealth into school divisions promoting the Standards of Quality.
According to the department, the board can consider the consolidation of existing divisions based on the following criteria:
- The school-age populations of the school divisions proposed for consolidation
- The potential of the proposed consolidated division to meet the Standards of Quality
- The potential of the proposed consolidated division to promote greater efficiency
- Anticipated increases or decreases in the school-age population
- Geographic and topographical factors impacting pupil transportation
- The ability of the existing divisions to meet the Standards of Quality on their own or in cooperation with another division
The action taken by the Board of Education on Tuesday marks Alleghany County Public Schools’ second consolidation, preceded by the 1981 merger of Clifton Forge’s schools into the county system.