Tutoring program needs more space

Step by Step, Inc., has been offering academic help to children at South Park Village in Kanawha City, but limited space means limited opportunity to serve everyone, director Michael Tierney said.

Tierney told Charleston City Council Monday night that children who live in the public housing development aren’t performing well in school.

Statistics compiled by Kanawha County Schools at the request of the organization showed 100 percent of children living in South Park Village are below mastery in mathematics. Eighty percent of them are below mastery in reading, Tierney said.

“But, those were hidden because those aren’t even Title I schools,” Tierney said of the Kanawha City district.

Title I programs provide assistance to schools with high numbers of children from low-income families, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.

The average family income for 79 of 80 homes there is less than $8,000, Tierney said.

The organization works directly with students at South Park Village, but the facility there only seats 40 people, including students and instructors. There are between 160 and 200 children who live in the development, Tierney said.

Step by Step wants to be in a position to feed and provide educational support to each child. The current program serves between 70 and 80 children, between its academic support centers at Kanawha City Elementary School and Horace Mann Middle School, Tierney said.

The organization is in the process of putting together a proposal to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department for use of one of its facilities to house programming. Mayor Danny Jones didn’t offer any immediate solutions to Step by Step, but said, they “have got my attention.”

“I don’t know if we can do anything, but we’ll try,” Jones said during the meeting.

Also Monday, council members renewed a lease between the city and Kanawha County Schools for use of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center to house a HeadStart program.

The center’s school status came into question earlier this spring after a new gun law makes it legal for those with concealed carry permits to bring firearms into community centers. Jones said Monday the law and pending lawsuits between the city and Second Amendment advocacy groups didn’t come into play when renewing the lease.

“That case may or may not go to court soon,” Jones said of the city’s request for judicial clarification of the law. The city argues it conflicts with existing state law that makes it a felony to carry a weapon onto to school property or at school-sponsored events.

The city’s redistricting bill was introduced Monday night. The bill would eliminate one of Charleston’s 21 wards following the 2010 U.S. census, which showed Charleston’s population was 51,400, down nearly 4 percent from 53,421 residents in 2000. The bill was referred to the city’s Redistricting committee, which will meet at City Hall on June 18 at 5:30 p.m.

In other business, council:

- Passed a bill that would rezone a parcel of land at 909 Oakhurst Dr. from a residential-office district to a commercial district. The former elementary school, most recently used as a dental clinic, would have more options for adaptive reuse with the change, according to a recommendation by the city’s planning committee.

- Closed a public right-of-way on First Avenue between Second Avenue and Kanawha Boulevard on the city’s West Side. The area will be used as a parking lot for Hospice Care.

- Approved 2015 fiscal year budgets for the city’s parking system ($4,565,323) and the Civic Center ($5,414,742).

- Returned $31,584 “deemed as unallowable expenditures” to the U.S. Department of Energy. The city received money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for a parking garage light project. Councilman Bobby Reishman told Parking Committee members Monday night the city was asked to return the money, because “there was one garage we didn’t quite complete yet.”

- Purchased mobile interoperable radios from Electronic Communications for the Charleston Police Department. The 22 radios cost $55,714.

- Approved a $13,660 bid from Mobiletek Consulting to buy computer equipment and mounting parts for Charleston Fire Department and Charleston Police Department vehicles.

- Purchased a generator and transfer switch for the Cato Park Continuation of Operations site. The generator will be a secondary power source for city hall in case of an power outage. The generators and switch cost $26,449.

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-346-5102.

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