CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County School officials have begun planning an expansion of John Adams Middle -- the latest attempt to alleviate overcrowding at South Hills area schools.The four-classroom addition, headed by Charleston-based architecture firm ZMM Inc., is expected to be completed by May and will cost a total of $1,128,000.The addition will rid John Adams -- the county's most congested middle school -- of seven portable outdoor classrooms currently in use, according to Chuck Wilson, facilities director for Kanawha County Schools."Even with seven portables, they're crowded inside the school," he said. "This should help relieve some of the overcrowding, but JA still needs more work. We would've liked to have had more money and built more classrooms."Kanawha County had requested $1 million from the School Building Authority for the addition, but received only $750,000 for the project instead.The Kanawha County school board has committed $130,000 to the project in local funds, and has said the remaining amount -- about $250,000 -- would have to come from a private donor.It was unclear Tuesday where that remaining chunk of funding would come from, but Wilson confirmed that the project was fully funded and in the preliminary stages of design.The school board will discuss the project at a regular meeting on Thursday.
In recent years, overcrowding has plagued South Hills elementary schools and John Adams Middle. Both are feeder schools for George Washington High School, which has long faced overflow due to a high demand for enrollment.Last year, a moratorium was implemented on out-of-area transfers to alleviate overcrowding at GW, which has some of the highest test scores in the state. Now, out-of-area students who are applying to GW for next year are already being turned down because the school board implemented a stricter transfer policy in May after months of debate about whether to redistrict attendance zones."We look at program capacity and maximum enrollment in different classes, and that's the number of students that can be housed," Wilson said. "Whether that meets the guidelines, the decision is made to stop taking out-of-area students."We have several schools in the county that are crowded from time to time, and we've closed a lot of schools. We're now at a point where we're tight in some schools, but just right in most."Wilson said that the portable classrooms like the ones at JA are a problem across the county, especially when it comes to safety standards.About 75 portables are currently being used at Kanawha County schools. Elkview Middle School has three, while Carver Career Center and Andrews Heights Elementary have four each.In 1980, the state started requiring that school systems commit to a removal time for portables as a way to avoid permanent use of the separate buildings.
"We have about a dozen that have been in place before that requirement even came around," Wilson said. "If population trends keep going up, and the buildings stay the same, those portables are going to stay put."Construction will begin at John Adams in early September, according to ZMM documents. Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4814.