ALLEGHANY COUNTY, Va. – It was a historic night in Alleghany County Wednesday as leaders voted to consolidate their schools with Covington City Public Schools.
Community members and leaders have discussed the idea for decades, and now it’s in the critical final phase.
Supporters in favor of the historic consolidation are halfway there, as the City of Covington and the state of Virginia still both need to say yes.
While some see this as the start to the next best thing for the Alleghany Highlands, others are fearful of or concerned about the change.
After years of talking about it, Alleghany County leaders cast their votes Wednesday night, most in favor of consolidating with Covington City Public Schools.
Alleghany County school board chair Jacob Wright said it’s a step forward for regionalism.
“Working together has not always been our strong point, but now we’re starting to get past it, and like I said, we’re starting to develop a culture around here and that we’re working together, and it’s just amazing," said Wright.
The board of supervisors and school board met in a joint meeting, taking public comment before the vote.
Two people spoke in person against the plan, not questioning the concept, but rather the finances behind it.
“In my opinion, it would be a dereliction of duty for the supervisors or board to cast votes for this proposal in its current state,” said one attendee.
Others shared their comments with the boards via email.
Board members took turns reading them out loud, most in favor of the plan.
“I support the plan to consolidate the two systems into one. I ask for your support in voting in favor of the school consolidation plan this week,” read one email.
Declining enrollment in both divisions is the primary reason for the plan.
Alleghany County board of supervisors chair Matt Garten said there’s lots of pride here, and what finally got them over the hump was a recent injection of new, younger blood, who aren’t all from the area.
“That aren’t as emotionally attached to the history, are looking forward to our children and their children having a positive educational future and I think that’s really the driving reason," said Garten.
The plan will need final state approval. If things stay on track, the process would begin in 2022.
Now all eyes are on Covington’s board and city council, where there’s expected to be much more resistance from teachers and families.
They meet Thursday night at Covington High School at 6:30 p.m.