From a financial standpoint alone, it makes sense to keep the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind at its present location in Romney.
It also makes sense from an institutional perspective. The schools have a solid reputation for providing comprehensive educational programs for hearing impaired and visually impaired students respectively. There is also a unit for deafblind and multihandicapped children. Since its inception in 1870, the schools have served thousands of students.
Lawmakers should take note of the economics involved. It is estimated that moving the schools to another location would cost nearly $100 million. But David Ferguson of ZMM Architects and Engineers of Charleston told the Charleston Daily Mail renovating the school buildings on their present site could be done for about $18 million less than that.
Romney and Hampshire County rely on the economic benefits the schools bring. West Virginia School Superintendent Lynn Boyer told the Hampshire Review that 81 percent of the schools’ employee population lives in Hampshire County, with compensation amounting to $11 million and another $25 million in spinoff economic benefits.
Predictably, the possibility of moving the schools has drawn ire from the Hampshire County community. Delegate Darryl Cowles said he opposes the move, telling the Hamshire Review: “I will peel the paint off the halls of the capitol in my wild boisterous opposition to moving that school from Romney.”
State and local governments are hard-pressed for funding these days. By remodeling the present school buildings in Romney instead of building a new facility elsewhere, $18 million can be saved.
The decision seems like a no-brainer. Keep the schools in Hampshire County.