Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 4, 2013

Enough room to learn... Mercer school officials mull rezoning of subdivision to ease overcrowding

By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — School officials in Mercer County are looking to rezone a Princeton subdivision to help ease overcrowding at a local elementary school. However, some parents feel the proposal is unfair to them and their children.

School Superintendent Dr. Deborah Akers said officials are studying a proposal that would send students living in the Wyndale Subdivision to Athens Elementary. Students at Wyndale are presently zoned for Melrose Elementary, which Akers said is becoming overcrowded.

“What we are looking at is an adjustment on our boundaries between Melrose and Athens,” Akers said. “Melrose School has many students but little space and there is space available at Athens. There is more room at Athens because of PikeView Middle and the enrollment at Melrose has grown over the past few years.”

Amy Belcher of Princeton currently has daughters in the fourth grade and fifth grade at Melrose Elementary, and her son is set to start kindergarten at the school next year.

“I am very unhappy with this recommendation,” Belcher said. “We are so close to Melrose. We can actually see the school from the top of the hill in our subdivision. To send our kids all the way to Athens seems unfair to me. We are very pleased with the staff, teachers and size of Melrose. We would hate to see these kids broken up. It seems unfair to me that ”

Akers said the Wyndale Subdivision is being considered for school rezoning because students would not have to be driven past Melrose in order to reach Athens unlike other area subdivisions.

“When you look at the attendance boundaries between the two schools, any other area pulls you back to where you are a much greater distance away from Athens,” she said. “Any other area we would actually be taking children past Melrose School to get them to Athens.”

Belcher said she and many parents moved to the Wyndale subdivision because of Melrose Elementary’s reputation.

“When we were deciding where we were going to move we knew the Melrose School district was a good school district,” Belcher said. “It is also a smaller school, and I liked the idea of having my children at the same elementary school. Melrose has more of a community environment and is so much smaller. I know the school is growing. When Wyndale was starting out, Melrose had lower class numbers and a lot of parents were concerned about sending their children there. As the subdivision grew, so did the school. It seems the one neighborhood that helped this school grow is the one neighborhood they are wanting to move.”

Belcher said many other parents she has spoken with are not in favor of rezoning.

“Bible in the Schools is offered at Melrose, but is not offered at Athens,” she said. “This would also increase the time our students spend on the bus every day. This is our closest school. I’ve talked to lots of parents in the neighborhood and everyone is upset. No one seems to be happy about this move.”

If the school board decides to move forward with rezoning, Akers said public information meetings will be held to discuss the issue with parents.

“The decision hasn’t been made at this point,” Akers said. “I have presented this to the board as an issue we need to get resolved. I will be presenting additional information to them at a later date. If we decide to move forward with the rezoning proposal we will most likely schedule an information session for parents to attend so they can give input on this issue.”

Akers said there are state regulations on how many students can be in one classroom, and that classroom size is one factor school officials must consider.

“The issue we have is we just don’t have enough room at Melrose,” she said. “We do have a cap on the number of youngsters in a grade level on the elementary level. We can’t just place additional students at a grade level or in a room. We do have state regulations that cap the number of students a teacher can have in the classroom. The size of the room is a factor, too. You can’t have so many students its unwieldy to instruct them.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.comϖ