There are three rules for living in Huntington. You don’t use your turn signals unless you absolutely have to. You don’t suggest the Thundering Herd adopt a darker shade of green. And you never, ever suggest doing anything that would diminish Ritter Park.
Cabell County Schools Superintendent Ryan Saxe has learned that last lesson the hard way.
Meadows Elementary is one of five elementary schools proposed for replacement in the district’s Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan that was unveiled in March.
If the school were to be replaced on site, committee members who developed the plan with stakeholder feedback suggested it be built farther back from its existing location at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Hal Greer Boulevard.
Other sites are being considered, it seems. One involves using part of Ritter Park for a new school.
In a Facebook post Saturday evening, Saxe said the concept of building a new arts-focused school near the Ritter Park amphitheater as a replacement for Meadows is in the very early, “dreaming big” stage for the district.
Saxe made his comment following a post from a member of the Greater Huntington Board of Park Commissioners who he approached with the idea and to gauge the possibility as one of many options for improving the school and its location, he said.
“As many are probably aware, there is a scarcity for property in and around the school,” Saxe said in the post. “For one of the options, I did approach the park board to get their thoughts and ideas.”
Saxe said he plans to meet with the school community, Local School Improvement Council, staff and other stakeholders to gain additional feedback.
Ritter Park is one of the distinguishing features of Huntington. If any other city in West Virginia has a park that can match its size and its nature setting in an urban neighborhood, it would be pretty special, too.
Huntington residents have a special connection to Ritter Park, so any proposal to alter it in any way, shape, form or fashion had better be a good one.
On the other side of this matter is Meadows School itself. It’s hemmed in by a hill, a busy street and a busier state highway into Huntington. Its existing site is barely adequate for elementary students’ needs.
Meadows parents are justifiably proud of their school. Their children are like any other and need a safe area with ample play space. Driving children to school at Meadows and then exiting onto West Virginia 10 at rush hour is not the safest situation.
The Meadows attendance area has other problems when it comes to site selection. Meadows is a few blocks from Cabell Huntington Hospital and operations of the Marshall University medical and pharmacy schools. Both are growing, and both are taking control of more properties in the Hal Greer corridor. There is also the terrain to consider. Thus, site alternatives are limited.
If the Ritter Park idea was a nonstarter before, it definitely is a nonstarter now following widespread criticism. That, however, does not change the situation at Meadows.
If anyone has ideas, now is the time to offer them.