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John Adams overcrowding: Redistricting 'still a big if'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County school administrators met with transportation officials Monday afternoon to discuss overcrowding at John Adams Middle School -- the latest in a string of redistricting proposals to address congestion in the area's schools.

While John Adams Middle School, and subsequently, George Washington High School, have been pushing capacity limits for more than a decade, Assistant Kanawha County Superintendent Jane Roberts said redistricting is "still a big if" for now.

"Everybody knows that John Adams is crowded. We're looking if there's a way to alleviate that -- that's all we're doing right now," Roberts said. "It seems like everyone is jumping the gun, but there is nothing definite. We haven't even started talking about numbers."

One possible plan to alleviate John Adams' overflow would move students at Ruthlawn and Alum Creek elementary schools to South Charleston Middle School's attendance zone. The plan could reduce John Adams' enrollment by up to 70 kids each year.

Officials considered similar plans in the late 1990s, when the board temporarily prohibited Alum Creek and Ruthlawn students from attending John Adams in an attempt to alleviate overcrowding problems then.

Last year, out-of-area transfers were banned at George Washington High School out of concern for plummeting student-teacher ratios.

Monday's meeting was the first step in formally revisiting the area's issue, Roberts said.

"Today is our initial work session with the transportation department. If we work out something today and it looks like we could possibly go forward, we will invite PTO and the Local School Improvement Council to discuss. If we move forward, we'll do the same thing that we did with Overbrook Elementary and collaborate with parent leaders," she said prior to the closed meeting.

Overbrook, located in the South Hills area, has been at the center of redistricting talk. The Board of Education recently met with parents to talk about phasing some students into nearby Kenna and Holz elementary schools to alleviate its overcrowding.

In that case, parent leaders think a lax countywide transfer policy is to blame. Under current Board of Education code, families who move to a different attendance zone can elect to maintain residency in their student's original school without annual renewal of applications.

Monday's meeting did not provide an answer to the John Adams problem, but redistricting for the area was not ruled out.

"There was no perfect solution generated today. We will not be meeting with parent representatives next week," Roberts said following the meeting. "[Redistricting] is still on the table, meaning we still are investigating various scenarios to determine the best direction. No decisions have been made."Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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