by RICHARD KERNS
Tribune Staff?Writer

KEYSER — The Mineral County Board of Education could see an infusion of up to $900,000 under the recently passed federal educational-jobs initiative.
School board members Tuesday night also reviewed preliminary enrollment figures showing a decline of roughly 50 students countywide.
Superintendent Skip Hackworth briefed the board members on the status of the federal funding program, saying the governor has yet to decide not only how the funding will be distributed among West Virginia's 55 counties, but also even if the state will accept the money.
With Gov. Joe Manchin running in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Robert Byrd, Hackworth said he would be shocked if the governor turned down the money. Statewide, West Virginia is set to receive $55 million as part of the special funding package, which is designed to forestall layoffs among teachers and other school system employees.
“Pumping $55 million into the schools of this state would be a very popular thing,” Hackworth said, noting as well that the opposite tack — rejecting the money — would likely prove politically unpopular for the governor.
While the upper estimate for the funding that would accrue to Mineral County approaches $900,000, Hackworth said the allocation could be as low as $650,000. Adding to the appeal, funds will be distributed directly to
the counties, without going through state offices.
Still, the superintendent issued an advisory to the board members. The funding is specifically provided for personnel, and will likely be provided only two years. Funding a range of positions beyond the board's ability to sustain could force painful staff reductions in the future.
“Caution,” he said. “Adding jobs can be a bad thing.”
Hackworth said he would keep the board appraised as the program details are finalized.
In other business Tuesday night, Hackworth announced that third-day enrollment figures have the county's school population down by 47 students compared to last year. A final count will be taken the day after Labor Day, and the figures are expected to decline further, primarily due to delays in obtaining enrollment figures at Keyser High.
Preliminarily, though, most of the decline has occurred in the Frankfort District, which surprised school officials who studiously track enrollment, birth and population trends to best allocate teachers and other resources where they are most needed.
“That's really not at all what we were thinking,” Hackworth said of the drop-off in the Frankfort schools.