It’s a strange thing that Woodburn Elementary survived as long as it did. Sitting squarely within the city of Morgantown’s Woodburn neighborhood - itself slowly being turned from nice livable community to one dominated by landlords and the students they rent to - Woodburn Elementary (like Wiles Hill and Central and Second Ward and First Ward before it) has been targeted for closure by Monongalia County’s School Board. Predictably, the neighborhood is opposed to the measure, what with the fact that they like having a school nearby, and because they presumably know what happens to neighborhoods once young families no longer have a reason to move in. (See: Wiles Hill surrounding Highland Avenue.)
Last night’s meeting played out the way these meetings always do, with the neighborhood passionately defending that which it cares about and the county’s school board entirely ignoring them. Rest assured that no matter what niceties are said in the article linked to, the school board will do whatever it damn well pleases with Woodburn Elementary, and that will be closing it. They’ll do this not only because they’re an assembled collection of generally arrogant incompetents - Nancy Walker and Clarence Harvey in particular are plagues on our community - but because they view consolidation as the be-all/end-all of successful schools management. It’s why Morgantown is now surrounded by a perimeter of consolidated schools: North Elementary, Mountainview Elementary, and Westover Elementary.
Unfortunately for the activist groups working to save places like Woodburn, there’s simply too much history leaning toward yet more consolidation, including the school board itself, which has long ignored structural problems with older buildings like Woodburn (and Easton Elementary, which is also slated for closure) so that they could then argue that those schools need to be closed because they’ve got - ta da! - structural problems. The Monongalia County School Board has exacerbated the problems that they’re now proposing to solve by closing the buildings and consolidating the schools. It is an absolutely insidious way of doing business, but dumb though those school board members might be, they’re not stupid: they know that by simple letting the facilities deteriorate, they create the conditions necessary to offer a persuasive argument for moving into new buildings. This is a well established process for the local school board.
Meanwhile, the damage to the neighborhood as a result of these closures is almost certain. Slumlords now own everything around what once was Central Elementary. They’re also creeping further and further into Wiles Hill. Although the school board won’t admit, closing a school like Woodburn Elementary is about more than simply shuttering a building. It’s about removing an incentive for the young families necessary to keep neighborhoods vital from actually moving to those neighborhoods.
Yesterday, commenter Carroll noted that members of the Wiles Hill neighborhood were fighting back. It is the same fight that will be required of Woodburn. They already have a neighborhood organization, and is at least one group on Facebook organizing opposition to the proposed closure. Although that group is unlikely to succeed at keeping the school open, hopefully what happens within it can translate into mobilization against whatever idiotic thing comes after the school’s shuttering. (That idiotic thing, in this case, is probably the city government’s general disinterest in the neighborhood itself as it becomes increasingly controlled by landlords anxious to rent homes to incoming students.)
It’s hard to put it any plainer than that, particularly when our esteemed local publication has just been caught digitally altering photographs for the sketchiest of reasons. The offered explanation - that the newspaper simply doesn’t run photographs of candidates running for office - boggles the imagination. Since when, one wonders. Of course the more likely explanation is that the newspaper and its owners weren’t interested in doing anything that might benefit the particular politicians that were excised from the photograph; it’s hardly a secret that the newspaper’s ownership uses the Dominion Post as an organ for their own political beliefs whenever they see necessary. To put that another way: the family that owns the newspaper is one of the biggest landholders in Monongalia County. Whenever a school levy funded by a slight increase in property taxes goes on the ballot, the Dominion Post manages to always report how much that slight increase is going to hurt the county’s senior citizens. They never acknowledge that it’s actually going to take the most out of the pocket of the newspaper’s ownership. Funny how that works. Of course, the Dominion Post’s real crime aren’t these blatant conflicts of interest - anybody ought to be able to connect the biased coverage to the ownership’s political beliefs - but rather, the slavish attitude they take toward the local political establishment. Take, for example, this wishy-washy editorial in which the newspaper lectures the Woodburn neighborhood to quietly accept whatever decision is made regarding the proposed consolidation of Woodburn and Easton Elementaries. To read the newspaper’s account, the decision will have been the result of a fair process that weighed equally all of the available possibilities. Here’s what the Dominion Post wrote:
Though many may disagree, now, and possible more later, we believe the BOE has made a good faith effort to reach the best decision on where this new school is located.Rest assured that any decision involving people like Clarence Harvey and Nancy Walker was never made in “good faith.” Neither know the meaning of the words. Any reasonable person can see that this entire process was almost certainly rigged from the outset to arrive at one particular conclusion: consolidation. How can they know this? Because this isn’t playing out any differently than the closures of Wiles Hill and Central Elementaries did 10 years ago, and the closer of 1st Ward and 2nd Ward did 20 years ago. The communities object, the school board ignores them, and then the school board decides to do whatever the hell it had wanted to in the first place. The Dominion Post’s editorial finishes with this:
That’s important, but more important is that we all remember this decision is the duly elected board’s to make - not the community’s, not these schools’, not the state School Building Authority’s, not the Morgantown City Council’s and not the architects’.They could have added, “So don’t judge the school board, for they’re only doing what’s best for all of us. Don’t question or criticize or object.” Of course, if you believe any of that, I’ve got a photograph that’s just perfect for you.