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John Adams gets board's backing for expansion

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- John Adams Middle School will undergo major renovations and an expansion project.

The Kanawha County school board voted Thursday to approve the project. ZMM architects, a Charleston firm, were awarded the contract based on their low bid for the project.

School system officials have been discussing plans to renovate and expand at the crowded South Hills school for months.

Officials went to the School Building Authority, the group charged with divvying up state funds for construction projects at public schools, in December to request funding for the project.

The SBA agreed to put up $750,000, with the school system putting $128,000 toward the project. But the school needed another $250,000 to fund the expansion.

A group of parents and community members originally offered to raise money for the addition.

Alan Bell headed up that project. Bell is the developer of The Ridges, a multimillion-dollar housing development on the border between Alum Creek and South Charleston. Residents currently send their children to the John Adams-George Washington district but worried that redistricting would send them to South Charleston.

Bell originally offered to come up with the full $1 million the county needed for the project. When the SBA offered to put up $750,000, he said he would raise the last $250,000.

Superintendent Ron Deurring said Thursday that Bell and the rest of the group had, so far, failed to come through with those funds. But the county is committing to the project in an effort to get it off the ground.

 "We're committed to the project and we're still waiting to hear from them, hopefully when they've come up with the money," Deurring said.

"If we don't hear from them we'll have to pull from another line item and it may hurt the system."

Now, John Adams has to use several portable classrooms to house its students, which officials have repeatedly called a safety hazard.  The new addition will add four classrooms to the cramped school, eliminating the need for those portables.

The project is to be finished by May 2014. Construction should begin in September.

The situation at John Adams is part of a trend of crowding in the schools that serve Charleston's South Hills neighborhood. This week officials announced that no out-of-area transfer students will be allowed at George Washington High School, one of the best high schools in the state, because several of the school's programs are at capacity.

This year the school board looked at redistricting in South Hills to alleviate crowding at Overbrook Elementary. They eventually voted against the plan after parents came out against the plan, but have said they will continue to consider redistricting options as they monitor crowding in South Hills elementary schools in coming years.

"We have to do something," said board president Pete Thaw. "We're in such trouble up there we have to do some building so we don't have to build all new schools."

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.


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