CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County School district continues to prepare for a series of staffing and learning changes to come to Chandler Academy in Charleston following a loss of students and funding.

KCS Superintendent Tom Williams said on 580 Live with Dave Allen Monday morning that while Chandler will not close its doors, the decision had to be made to limit operations at the school by making cuts to its assistant principal, seven teaching positions, and a counselor position, as well as make transitions to a more virtual classroom setting.

Kanawha County School Superintendent Tom Williams

Tom Williams

“Chandler will be open next year, we staff them according to the number of students like we do the rest of our schools, but Chandler will be open next year,” Williams said on 580 Live.

As Kanawha County’s alternative school for at-risk students, Chandler Academy averages 50 middle and high school students in person daily, with an average attendance rate within the 60% range.

The academy will continue to maintain a staff composed of a principal, five general education teachers, two special needs teachers, a counselor, and a behavior specialist.

As average daily attendance typically falls below 50, school administration say the cuts would still keep classes at an average of under 10 students.

However, the changes coming to Chandler are not setting well with many of the staff at the school, who feel as though there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

At last Thursday’s public comment period during the KCS board meeting, high school English teacher at Chandler, Patty Waldeck got up to share her stance regarding the cuts. She said as an advocate for Chandler Academy students, she has just one main question.

“Why are the identified most vulnerable students in Kanawha County being denied educational opportunities and needed services?” Waldeck inquired.

Kanawha County Schools has been addressing the need to make staffing cuts at different schools throughout the county as enrollment has declined by more than 530 students, and the cuts ensure that staffing is aligned to student population size.

However, as the state makes a certain amount of funds available to KCS every year that’s consistent with a student-to-teacher ratio funding formula, Waldeck was questioning what the county-wide cuts were really for.

“It makes one wonder, why programs that provide educational opportunities and services to students, like Career Plus, and drop-out prevention programs like we have at Chandler, are being crippled.” said Waldeck.

Tammy Burgess, Assistant Principal at Chandler for 10 years, also got up and spoke at last Thursday’s public hearing. She said whether she returns to Chandler or not after the assistant principal position is removed, she has many concerns regarding the staff and students at the school, one of those concerns being safety.

“Due to reducing the number of employees in the building, it means less supervision for misbehaviors, and that concerns me, I’m just being honest,” said Burgess.

Burgess went on to say that another major concern of hers is the incorporation of a virtual platform to heavily rely on in a brick-and-mortar building.

She said students will have the four core subjects taught by certified teachers in-person while they will have a certified virtual instructor to teach three elective courses.

Burgess said while she is glad that both learning platforms are getting taught by certified teachers, it doesn’t make sense to her why students will be made to go virtual in a physical learning environment, especially when taking online courses have always been optional to students.

She added that a virtual setting really concerns her when it comes to meeting the needs of the special education students at Chandler, as well.

“Just because you change to a different academic program doesn’t mean we are meeting the needs of the students, and what I’m talking about is, special ed. students, we try to give them the best way to learn, and it’s with a teacher there actively doing it,” she said.