Motion Passes for Pilot Program for West Side Schools in Charleston

By: Rahel Solomon; Andrew Colegrove Email
By: Rahel Solomon; Andrew Colegrove Email

UPDATE 1/17/13 @ 10 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ0 -- Major changes could be in the works for schools on Charleston's west side.

A motion for a pilot project was unanimously approved Thursday evening by the Kanawha Board of Education.

Under this pilot project west side schools are looking at a balanced school year, meaning no more long summer breaks.

Students would be required to wear school uniforms, and truancy will be more severely punished. Seniority would also not have to be as high of a priority when principals select their teachers.

Although the motion passed, the changes aren't guaranteed just yet.

State and county lawmakers will now review the proposed changes, and it's up to them to approve them and provide funding.

Some parents and students aren't so crazy about this, but school board members agree these changes would go a long way in helping improve the kids' education.

“We gotta do academics first,” board member Becky Jordon said. “Teachers are working as hard as they can, but it's just a good way of looking outside the box and trying to raise their test scores."

Jordon says they should know by the end of the legislative session whether or not this pilot project will indeed go into effect.

They're requesting funding for the next five years.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Some kids on Charleston's West Side could soon be saying goodbye to those long summer breaks. In an effort to improve grades at five schools, a pilot program was being considered Thursday evening at a school board meeting.

Principal Henry Nearman of J.E. Robbins Elementary School said he supports the program. "I think as a package this pilot could be very beneficial to our school," he said. " I think to look at each individual item I think there's debate both ways."

The full package would involve a balanced school year, meaning students would have classes for nine weeks and then a break for three weeks all year round. Seniority wouldn't be as central to the hiring decisions of teachers and the consequences for tardiness would be harsher. Under the new program, if a student is late too many times the parent could have to appear in court.

The schools that would be impacted by the new pilot are Grandview, J.E. Robbins, Watts, Mary C. Snow and Stonewall Jackson.

Christine Campbell of the American Federation of Teachers in West Virginia said, a pilot program is a way to test alternative strategies to raise academic achievement but "we must recognize that parental involvement is a critical component of each child’s education. Until we acknowledge the influence parents have on their child’s success, we are only scratching the surface of true education reform."

Parents were divided on the issue of the pilot program. Ena Haynes, the mother of a son who attended a school with a balanced year calendar, said the frequent breaks assist in the learning process.

"Once kids get a little stir crazy in school they get a little break," Haynes said. "So they get that relaxation and when they come back they start something new . It lends itself better to learning."

Haynes' daughter attends J.E. Robbins where the changes could take place if the proposal is approved.

But another parent said without a long summer break, his son's football activities would be negatively impacted.

If the Kanawha County Board of Education approves the pilot Thursday, the proposal could advance to the state level.

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