Solution to overcrowding at Thomas Dale High School

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) – Dozens of Chesterfield parents protested the possibility of a major shake-up at a county middle school. They are concerned that Thomas Dale - the most overcrowded high school in Chesterfield County - may send its 9th graders to Chester Middle School next year. In turn, Chester Middle School students would go to a different campus.

Earlier today district leaders met with faculty to discuss the possible shift, though the district isn't speaking publicly. Parents and students however are fired up and ready to save their school.

They may be small, but their message is mighty.

"Save Chester Middle School!"

Student and parents, cram together in the cold hoping someone hears their voice.

"We're trying to get the school board to listen to our alternatives to moving our children out of this school and closing Chester Middle School completely," said Angela Jenkins, Chester parent.

According to the numbers Thomas Dale is seriously overcrowded. 2,400 students are packed into a school built for about 1,800. 13 trailers neighbor the campus that's already seen additions. Chester Middle is only 80% full. Two other nearby middle schools about 60%. Through the grapevine, Angela has heard the switch to a 9th grade campus would begin next year.

"Having a child at each school, I see the movement and the closing of Chester Middle School as much more detrimental to a child than the overcrowding issue," said Angela.

Mara Leach's 4th grader hopes to be a Chester Middle School Eagle.

"I just hope I don't go to a different school and stay here at Chester Middle," said student Joshua Leach.

But that may never happen.

"He's been in the same school as his friends since kindergarten and they'll be separated into two different schools," said Mara. "One of the schools will end up being a good half an hour ride on the school bus."

The district says, in years past, it's had conversations with the community about a potential change. But the people here say they haven't had that talk.

"There's a lot of people out here who just want to save our school," said student Caleb Patton.

If there is a switch, some are talking: home school, private school, possibly even moving.

"That's ridiculous. I moved into Chesterfield County specifically for the schools," said Mara.

Parents and students will get an opportunity to talk with school board members tomorrow evening at their meeting.  It begins at 7 p.m.

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