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GW closed to transfer students

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- No out-of-area students will be allowed to transfer to George Washington High School this fall.

Nineteen students have already had their transfer requests turned down by the school system, with more than three weeks left until the deadline to apply for a transfer.

County administrators have decided that the South Hills school is too crowded to accept students from outside its attendance zone. The problem isn't with the school itself - the building is not at capacity - but with the curriculum. Several subjects are too full to accept more students.

"We look at the programs at the school and we see the number of students who are in them and see if they're filled," superintendent Ron Duerring said. "And if they're at program capacity we can't fill them."

This will be the second consecutive year that GW has been closed to transfer students. Last year, Duerring implemented a moratorium on out-of-area transfers to the school, saying the school was too crowded to accept those students.

That made the school exempt from the county's high school choice program, which lets students from across the county apply for any of the school system's high schools, without regard to their location relative to the student's home.

The moratorium was unpopular among GW students and administrators, who said the influx of engaged students is a boon to the high-performing school and vital to its atmosphere and achievement. But it was popular with administrators at other schools, who had long been voicing concerns over the tendency of their neighborhood's best students to leave the area to attend GW.

Read about the debate over the moratorium:

George Washington is one of the state's top public schools. It boasts an 83 percent graduation rate - well above the school system's 70 percent average - and regularly performs above average on standardized tests.

But the school has long been crowded: Last year it had around 1,100 students and in 2010 the average class size was almost 36. That's compared to an average class size of 21 in Kanawha County as a whole.

School board president Pete Thaw, a proponent of school choice in Kanawha County, was unhappy with the outcome, but recognized the logistical challenges involved in letting students into GW.

No other schools have been deemed at or above program capacity yet, though Duerring said administrators are still looking at the number of students in those schools.  

"It's going to get nasty because we wanted to try to open that school up," Thaw said. "It made me a little unhappy because why did we go to all that trouble to lift the moratorium and then have to announce that the classes are all filled?"

Thaw acknowledged, though, that the administration's hands seem to be tied.

"There's no way for us to get around it," he said.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.

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