CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston Middle School principal Henry Graves is worried that if a proposed redistricting plan goes through, the school's atmosphere will suffer not because of the students, but because of their parents.
"We need to come together. Students are being divided by no fault of their own. If redistricting happens, these kids will be a part of this school," Graves said. "I don't want students thinking they are better than others. I don't want to perpetuate those thoughts.
"We can deliver a quality education no matter what happens, but it's going to take us all working together."
At a Kanawha County school board meeting last week, parents expressed concerns about the impact redistricting would have on their children's education if redistricting moves them from John Adams Middle and George Washington High School to South Charleston schools.
Although John Adams is overcrowded and has nearly twice as many students as South Charleston, several parents said they would move to avoid being pushed out of the George Washington attendance area.
"We want our kids to go to that school, and that's not changing if we get redistricted. I can tell you that I, and other families, will not send our kids to South Charleston. I will sell my home at a loss and move my kids to get them in the district," Chanin Wolfingbarger Krivonyak, a mother of three Ruthlawn Elementary students, told the board last week through tears.
Another parent said she worried about the impact the move would have on students' "middle class values," and another said the plan would "cripple the community."
When Graves first heard the comments, he thought about his own childhood growing up on the East End.
"Some of the comments made equated middle class values with economic status. I thought about my mother, who worked 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week so that I could go to a good college. She taught me to be moral and ethical and to respect the people in our community, and we didn't have things readily accessible to us," he said. "Just because these kids aren't at the highest socioeconomic level doesn't mean they don't have values. That's unfair."
Now, Graves is working to address the negative talk about his school without further worrying students about the education they're receiving.
"We're addressing students in a way that doesn't cause any further division. I don't want to point out what has been said, but we're highlighting what it means to be a productive citizen, and we're talking about the importance of community and giving them even more encouragement," he said. "I understand change is hard, but we need to tone it down because if we do make this change, we're going to have to be together. No more negative back and forth."
John Adams students scored the highest of any middle school in the state on the WESTEST 2 standardized test in 2012. South Charleston ranked 23 out of about 150 middle schools.
South Charleston Middle has met adequate yearly progress standards every year since the federal No Child Left Behind regulations were first implemented eight years ago.