UPDATE: Kanawha County School Board Approves Redistricting

By: Jennifer Rizzi, Brooks Jarosz, Anna Baxter Email
By: Jennifer Rizzi, Brooks Jarosz, Anna Baxter Email

UPDATE 3/21/2013@10:45p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The controversial topic of redistricting took over the Kanawha County board of education's meeting Thursday.

A handful of schools will now have new district boundaries.

The board voted to redistrict Flynn and Sissonville elementary schools.

Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary also made the list. Officials say this was in an effort to reduce overcrowding.

The board decided not to redistrict Overbrook and Holz Elementary Schools.

UPDATE 2/21/2012@11:15 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- School board members in Kanawha County continued to discuss overcrowding problems in several schools, and examined redistricting as a possible solution at Thursday night's meeting.

About six months ago, parent and PTO president Eugenie Taylor went in front of the board asking for help with what she called a serious overcrowding situation at Overbrook Elementary.

"It had just reached a crescendo with over 500 students and four overage classrooms," she said.

This week, Taylor was back in front of the board - but with a very different message. Now, she says parents and staff have handled the problem on their own by coming up with an alternative solution that could push redistricting to the side - at least for now.

The solution moves special education classes to Holz Elementary and suggests moving the library into the computer lab to free up classroom space.

"That leaves two open classrooms, which is like manna from heaven for our school and would absolutely address the problem," she said.

But parents and board members agree that solution may only be temporary.

"The trends show us that the schools are going to continue to be overcrowded," school board president, Pete Thaw said.

The board also discussed redistricting at Flynn Elementary and the new Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary. They say the west side school is already overcrowded a year-and-a-half after being built due to a high number of transfer students.

No decisions were made at Thursday's meeting. Board members say they'll revisit the issue next month.

UPDATE 9/11/12 @ 6:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Parents are taking aim at the Kanawha County School Board, criticizing a policy they say leads to massive overcrowding at Overbrook Elementary.

School officials admit there are some loopholes and say every policy that's in place has someone trying to take advantage of it.

Parents say the overcrowding at Overbrook has gone overboard and plagued the school for years, so we launched a WSAZ.com investigation to find out why.

This year, inside Overbrook Elementary, the principal says nearly 500 students are enrolled. That's 40 more kids than last year.

The issues took center stage at the school board meeting Monday. Concerns were raised over shortened lunch time, crowded classrooms, sharing of textbooks and limited playground use. It had parents calling for a policy change.

"We believe that such policies as described above actually weaken other schools," PTO President Eugenie Taylor said. "Because those other schools need those families to strengthen them."

Parents requested the board to create a stricter transfer policy. As it stands now, if a family moves, their child can continue to attend the same elementary school. Also, any younger siblings would also be allowed to go to that school.

"You might consider that a loop hole," James Withrow, General Counsel for Kanawha County School said. "You know, we've always considered it an accommodation to the parents so that they don't have kids enrolled in two or three different schools."

It may be the price of convenience but for nearly a dozen parents at the meeting, the policy to them is unfair and puts students who actually live in the district at a disadvantage.

"Please consider eliminating this policy immediately," Taylor said. "This problem has been pushed to the side for two long."

"I don't know that we want to change a policy because one school may be adversely affected by it," Withrow said. "The policy works pretty well in 64 other schools."

Overbrook's principal admits there are larger classroom sizes compared to other school. However, extra teachers are assigned to those classes.

The principal says all students get 20 minutes for lunch.

Any student transferring in must have a parent's proof of residency. With recent complaints, the board plans to find a more long-term solution to deal with a problem that parents say is bursting at the seams.

Superintendent Ron Duerring suspects about a dozen families may have violated the policy. School officials admit there's a perception the schools in South Hills are better than others in the county, to which is said to be untrue.

Officials already have asked parents voluntarily to move their kids to other schools and help alleviate the overcrowding problem.

School leaders hope to find a fix and an overall solution in the next couple of months.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Some parents in Kanawha County are concerned about overcrowding issues at their children's school.

During the Kanawha County School Board meeting Monday, parents spoke out about the county's residency policy. Many of the parents believe that it's not strict enough to prevent overcrowding issues at area schools, in particular Overbrook Elementary School, in the South Hills area of Charleston.

According to the school's principal, 480 students are enrolled at Overbrook this year. That is an increase from last year when the school had 436 enrolled.

The increase is mostly in the Kindergarten classrooms.

Principal Barbara Floren tells WSAZ.com the school follows the county-wide policy by enrolling students where a parent has provided proof of residency.

During Monday's meeting, parents expressed concerns how the overcrowding issues have created limited lunch time, crowded classrooms, sharing of textbooks and students aren't getting to use the school's playground frequently.

Principal Floren assures parents that the school is following all county school policies.

School policy requires 20 minutes for lunch and 10 minutes for breakfast for students to sit and eat their meal, according to Mrs. Floren. Some students at Overbrook begin to line up at 10:45 for lunch and the schedule continues until about 1 p.m.

Floren also says students are given the proper amount of time to enjoy their breakfast or lunch.

Floren does admit there are larger classroom sizes in some of the grades, but extra teachers have been assigned to these classes. In regards to sharing textbooks, Floren says the school has four 4th grade classrooms this year, instead of the usual three classes.

The school has worked to get enough textbooks for most of the subjects, but there is still some sharing of textbooks, according to Floren.

Overbrook Elementary expanded its facility in 2007 with SBA funds.

Parents told board members they want changes to be made to the current residency policy.

Right now, if a student is enrolled in a school and his/her family moves out of the district, the student doesn't have to transfer to a new school. The policy also allows that student's younger siblings the option to enroll at that school, despite the current residency of the family.

Board members admitted there is an overcrowding issue at Overbrook. Board members say they will continue to look at this issue.

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