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GW students seek Kanawha BOE's plan on redistricting

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two George Washington High School students are willing to pay up to $1,000 to gain access to the Kanawha County Board of Education's records on redistricting plans for the area's schools, saying the public needs to know more about the issues surrounding the proposal.

GW seniors Ben Glasser and Derek Crane, both student council members, have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the school board, asking for any documents related to redrawing attendance zones and transfer policies in the South Hills area.

For months, the county's proposal to redistrict in order to alleviate crowding at John Adams Middle, GW and its feeder schools has caused controversy, with parents voicing concerns that if they were pushed out of district, their children would not receive an adequate education.

Last year, John Adams students had the best middle school test scores in West Virginia, while GW students had the second-highest high school scores.

Kanawha school board members will vote at a meeting Thursday to decide if they will redistrict, and how they will do it. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.

Parents have threatened to sell their homes in order to continue sending their children to the district's schools, saying the move would "cripple the community" and that surrounding areas lack "middle class values."

"This is reserving one of the best schools in the state for the richest kids, and that's not fair. It's not right, and we feel like something needs to be done about it," Glasser said.

"A lot of the South Hills parents are complaining that the school would somehow be tarnished by out-of-area kids, and that's disgusting. It's totally wrong to keep out kids who want a quality education."

Kanawha County school board members have initiated plans to expand John Adams and proposed a new transfer policy to crack down on out-of-area families sneaking into the system.

The proposed redistricting plans would send some Overbrook Elementary students to Kenna or Holz elementaries, Mary C. Snow Elementary students to Grandview Elementary and Flinn Elementary students to Sissonville Elementary.

"We feel like they're burning down the village to save it. They're destroying this great school by instituting these kinds of policies," Glasser said. "What we want to do is to get this information available to the public."

People who request FOIAs sometimes must pay printing costs and even labor costs for those providing the information.

Under the new policy, which would be implemented as soon as next year if passed, when a school becomes overcrowded, a student would be required to go back to the school where their attendance zone is.

The GW student body is against a moratorium on out-of-area transfers that was imposed at the school last year and does not want some angry parents' opinions to represent the entire school, according to Crane.

"The minority is being heard as if they were a majority," he said. "We think everyone should have an opportunity to receive one of the best educations in the state and, at this point, we just want to know what's happening. We know they say it's because of overcrowding, but we want to know more -- and if there's a better way to fix the problem."

Several Overbrook parents think there is another way: Redesign the classroom setup in the schools, instead of the entire district.

At Overbrook, a special-education class is being moved to another school, and parents and teachers want to move a computer lab into the library to free up another classroom. They say redistricting is unnecessary and will make gifted programs harder for the area's advanced students.Library funding also on agenda

Also at today's meeting, school board members will address their plans, if any, for funding the Kanawha County Public Library.

Last month, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the Kanawha school board no longer is required by law to financially support library services, leaving the funding for 40 percent of the library's budget uncertain. The money in question is about 1.5 percent of the school board's budget.

Library officials have asked school board members to continue funding the library, even if the law no longer requires them to.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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