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Kanawha School Board approves revised transfer policy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - It will be more difficult for students to attend schools that aren't in their home districts under a revised version of the Kanawha County school transfer policy.

School board members approved the revisions Monday after months of deliberations over language and ideology.

With the new policy, it's harder to get approval from the school system to attend a school that isn't in a child's home district. It also closes loopholes that let students stay in a school for long after they've moved out of the attendance area, or lets younger students into a school outside of their attendance area because their older sibling was granted a transfer into that school before them.

It clarifies that owning or leasing property in an attendance zone "does not constitute residence unless a family actually resides in the premises" and says that, if overcrowding occurs at a school, an out-of-area student can be asked to leave to make room for another student who lives within the attendance area.

The changes come in response to crowding problems in several Kanawha County schools, especially those in Charleston's South Hills.

The board was once considering the new transfer policy alongside a redistricting policy that would have eased crowding in three elementary schools: Overbrook, Flinn and Mary C. Snow West Side.

Parents of students at Overbrook Elementary, in South Hills, came to the school board last year asking for action to relieve crowding at the school; the school system complied by taking another look at the existing transfer policy and proposing redistricting at Overbrook and other schools.

But the board dropped the idea of redistricting Overbrook after parents reversed their position in March, after getting a better look at the plan.

Those parents now hope that the newer, tighter version of the transfer policy will be enough to ease crowding at Overbrook, and at John Adams, the crowded South Hills middle school.

Parents living near schools with trends of lower performance have taken issue with the policy, though, saying they should have a right to send their children to a high-performing school no matter their address.

Christy Day lives on Charleston's West Side, but started her children at South Hills schools in elementary school. The West Side elementary schools have all struggled to meet achievement benchmarks in recent years, while south Hills schools have been successful.

"If all schools and all achievement were equal then we wouldn't be having this conversation," she said. "I would love to have the opportunity to send my children to a school down the street ... but that was too big a gamble for me to make."

At the other extreme are some board members, who think all students should have to attend the school nearest their home.

"I really think we don't have a need for this policy at all," board member Robin Rector said. "If people would just go to school where they live this would be a moot discussion."

"That might be something we talk about later," replied board member Becky Jordan.

Also at Monday's meeting, the school board approved a new, one-year contract for Kanawha County superintendent Ron Deurring. It includes a 5 percent raise, or a $7,500 bump on his $150,000 salary.

The board voted 3-to-2 for that pay raise, with Rector and board President Pete Thaw voting no. They cited financial strains in the county but noted their approval of Deurring's job performance.

Deurring's last contract, which expires this year, was for four years. Deurring requested a year-to-year contract moving forward.

Last May, Duerring was a candidate for a much higher paying job as the superintendent of Norfolk County, Va. schools. That position paid about $225,000 per year.

In the end, Norfolk school board members chose a candidate from Georgia to fill the position.

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

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