Cooperating To Save Money

Public education officials in Hancock and Brooke counties are right to use shared services as a strategy to maximize school quality. They have done so for years.

New opportunities are being discussed, Brooke County school Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson told our reporter Monday.

Specifically, operation of a joint alternative learning center is being discussed, along with sharing legal services.

Alternative learning centers are necessary adjuncts to public schools, serving students with behavior problems, including those who have been expelled from their regular schools. Children in such situations cannot just be thrown out of school; the law requires every youngster, regardless of behavior challenges, be offered an education.

But alternative learning centers can have a high per-pupil cost. Teachers capable of instructing all required curriculum have to be provided, regardless of how few students may need their services.

Kidder-Wilkerson said a combined alternative learning center serving both her county and Hancock would mean Brooke would not have to pay both English and mathematics teachers for its own facility.

That could free up one or more teachers for other duties, or money to meet other pressing needs in both counties.

Again, such cooperation is nothing new. As Kidder-Wilerson noted, Brooke and Hancock counties already share the cost of teachers at the Lee Day Report Center in Weirton and for the middle college program at West Virginia Northern Community College in Weirton.

Assuming arrangements agreeable to both county boards of education can be made, the joint alternative learning center should be pursued.