CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Around half the staff members at Chandler Academy in Charleston have been notified that their position are expected to be cut.

Chandler Academy (Facebook)

Administrators with Kanawha County Schools have proposed cutting an assistant principal, one counselor, and seven teachers from Chandler. KCS would add a behavior specialist and keep on two teachers involved in special needs education. The Academy would also continue with its principal, a counselor and five general education teachers.

Chandler Academy is Kanawha County’s alternative school for at-risk students. It’s located on Charleston’s West Side.

KCS has cited student loss and funding loss as reasons for proposing the staffing cuts. Most, if not all, of KCS employees are affected by RIF/Transfer.

Chandler supporters spoke out during the public comment period of Thursday night’s Kanawha County Board of Education meeting. The issue was not on the board’s agenda.

Chandler Academy Principal Wayman Wilson told board members that while he understands the loss of funding and students in the county, taking away staff at their school would ultimately hurt the students.

“It does not address several severe needs of the underserved students that are placed at Chandler Academy,” said Wilson.

According to KCS Communications Director Briana Warner, Chandler sees about 50 middle and high school students in person at the school on a daily basis. The average attendance rate is around 60% and class sizes are right below 10 students.

“Ideally, we would not need to make any cuts, however, KCS has lost more than 530 students this school year and difficult staffing decisions must be made across the district,” said Warner.

The proposed staffing cuts would align with the student population, a measure that’s enacted in all Kanawha County schools.

Assistant Principal Tammy J. Burgess, who said she’s considered in the cuts, mentioned that cuts were attempted last year in a similar way. KCS tried cutting one counselor, one principal and seven teachers.

“Last year affected the whole high school staff and now this year, it wipes out plenty much the whole middle school staff,” said Burgess.

In 2023, there were also plans of moving the Chandler Academy to virtual learning and making students learn fully in a virtual setting.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said potentially moving these students to virtual learning is not a good idea either. He said the most recent test scores in the state showed the lowest test scores came from the West Virginia Virtual Academy.

“We have an opportunity here in Kanawha County to keep doing something that is working for kids,” Lee said. “As educators, we want to make sure no child drops through the cracks.”

Staff members at a threat of losing their position want to be there and help the Chandler Academy students.

“The staff that’s been placed on transfer have over 150 years of teaching experience,” Burgess said. “They have shown their loyalty to work with these at-risk students every day.”

The staff members that are expected to remain at Chandler include two science teachers, one math teacher, one English teacher and one social studies teacher. Burgess said there aren’t going to be enough teachers for each grade level.

“It looks like we have five teachers, but we have seven grades,” Burgess said. “There’s really no flexibility in the schedule whatsoever.”

“Are you going to put the grades together?” Burgess asked the board. “Are you going to hire other staff to do the electives?”

School board members made no public comments per their policy in connection with the public portion of their meetings.