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Overbrook Elementary parents question residency policy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Some parents of Overbrook Elementary School students think a residency policy is too lax and could be to blame for overcrowding at the South Hills school.

"Are we following proper procedure to make sure the kids going to Overbrook Elementary actually live there?" said Eugenie Taylor, president of the school's Parent Teacher Organization.

There are about 479 students at Overbrook, Taylor said Monday during a special meeting of the Kanawha County Board of Education. She said that is considerably more than the enrollments of other South Hills elementaries.

Monday marked the second time for parents to ask the board to find a solution to the Overbrook situation. During a recent board meeting, Taylor talked about students sharing textbooks, having limited time to eat meals and sitting in packed classrooms.

Superintendent Ron Duerring, whose son went to Overbrook, said overcrowding has plagued the school for years. Duerring said some parents of kindergarten students at Overbrook recently accepted offers from the school system to move their children to other schools.

To enroll a student at any school, a parent must provide evidence the family lives in that school's district or apply for an out-of-district transfer, said board attorney Jim Withrow.

Once that proof is provided, that child and any of his or her siblings are able to attend that school without further proof of residence.

The school system typically hears complaints about the policy only when there is overcrowding, Withrow said.

Duerring said school administrators checked into allegations that some Overbrook students were living outside the school's attendance area. He said about a dozen families may be violating the policy.

Taylor and other Overbrook parents think the board should consider changing the policy. If a school is crowded, the board should "right-size" it and other area schools, they said.  

"This is not rocket science. There are bigger problems in the world," Taylor said.

Melissa Orders said she has three children at Overbrook. Because the school is so crowded, students can use the playground only on alternate days, she said.

The eating situation is a problem as well, parents said.

Because the county is providing free breakfast and lunch to students this year, the number of students consuming school-provided meals has increased. That means on days when students are released from school early, kindergarten students are in the lunch line at 9:45 a.m., Taylor said.  

Orders said she packed her daughter a sandwich, carrots and an apple for lunch last week. Her daughter came home with the fruit and vegetables, telling Orders she didn't have enough time to finish the whole meal.

Board members agreed meal times were a problem and pledged to send someone from the child nutrition office to check into the situation this week.

Finding an ultimate solution to the overcrowding at Overbrook - up to and including redistricting - will take time, Duerring said.

"I will note this is the only area we've had that problem," he said.

Other schools in the South Hills area have been packed for years, said board president Pete Thaw. John Adams Middle School is "bursting at the seams," he said.

"Today's overcrowding at Overbrook is tomorrow's overcrowding at John Adams," he added.

Other schools already affected include George Washington High School and Ruthlawn Elementary School.

Last school year, the board disallowed student transfers to GW because of overcrowding fears. This spring parents at Ruthlawn pushed for a policy that would officially make it a "feeder school" for John Adams and GW.

On Monday, a proposal from the City of South Charleston to annex the Ruthlawn school property was tabled after the board discussed opposition by Ruthlawn parents.

A local school improvement council meeting for the GW attendance area is set for Nov. 8. Before then, Duerring hopes to look at overcrowding on the county level, talk with Parent Teacher Organizations in the area about Overbrook options and review county policies.

Thaw and Duerring thought it was unlikely an overall solution could be found and enacted by that time.

Changes are necessary, Thaw emphasized.

"It's going to require moving children one way or another," he said.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1. ;;


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