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Alleghany County, Covington get state approval to consolidate school systems

Merger of student bodies would happen in 2023-24 school year

The Virginia Board of Education approved the Covington and Alleghany County merger.

“What the board has brought together, let no man cast asunder.”

That’s how Virginia Board of Education President Daniel Gecker jokingly concluded the 7-0 board vote approving the consolidation of Alleghany County Public Schools and Covington City Public Schools.

The unanimous vote came during a Thursday morning meeting, that included the Virginia Board of Education Board of Directors, as well as school and government leaders for both Alleghany County and the city of Covington.

With the resolution passing, the consolidation would take effect on July 1, 2022; however, it wouldn’t be until the 2023-24 school year that the two student bodies would begin attending classes together.

Members of the Virginia Department of Education Board of Directors, as well as school, government leaders in Alleghany County and Covington react to the news of the resolution passing to merge the two school divisions on Jan. 28, 2021. (Virginia Department of Education)

Acting Superintendent of Alleghany County Public Schools Sherman Callahan released this statement following the move’s approval:

We did receive approval and are excited to proceed on with consolidation. The tentative timeline is still to consolidate our administrative offices for the 22-23 school year and then follow up with consolidation of staff/student body for the 23-24 school year. There are still additional steps to take in the formalities of the process outside of the board of education; such as funding from the general assembly to assist us with fiscal components and various other subcommittee work sessions. These measures are progressing and we feel confident in our actions moving forward.

Sherman Callahan

In the current General Assembly session, Sen. Creigh Deeds has introduced Senate Bill 1267 which would amend the charter for the City of Covington to help facilitate the consolidation of the school divisions of the City of Covington and Alleghany County.

In the House of Delegates, Delegate Terry Austin has filed a similar bill, House Bill 2091, to accomplish the same task.

Both men represent all of Alleghany County and Covington.

Board of Education President Daniel Gecker asked what would happen if the board approved the vote, but the bills in the General Assembly did not pass.

Given that the consolidation is a two-phased plan, Covington City Manager Krystal Onaitis explained that Phase One would be able to continue moving forward.

During Phase One, the two school divisions’ administrations would be consolidated.

It’s not until Phase Two that student bodies, curriculum, extracurriculars and more would be consolidated.

Both Covington leaders, as well as Alleghany County leaders, approved the merger back in September.

The last time this process happened in Virginia was in the early 1980s, when Alleghany County and Clifton Forge consolidated their two school divisions, according to Virginia Department of Education Director of Policy Leslie Sale.

Below is the full video of the meeting:

About the Author:

Jeff Williamson arrived at WSLS 10 in March 2016.