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Parents air concerns over high school expansion

January 27, 1998

Parents air concerns over high school expansion

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County parents told the school board Monday night that the plans for adding new space and students to Jefferson High School have left out an important consideration: How it would impact the students.

Numerous parents told the school board they are worried that the already crowded building will not be able to handle an additional 600 ninth-graders, even with the planned addition, and students will be lost in the shuffle when the school population increases to more than 2,000.

Architect David Lipp presented a scale model of the building to the Jefferson County Board of Education Monday night and told the board members that the School Building Authority will soon review the latest set of plans.

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Lipp met with board members in public meetings several times last year to discuss plans for the renovation and addition at Jefferson High School, but many parents said they only recently became aware of them.

They said they thought a separate wing was going to be built for the ninth-graders at the side of the building.

Lipp said that plan had been changed in 1996 because it would have meant duplicating cafeteria, gymnasium and media center spaces to accommodate the students.

Superintendent David Markoe said he and other officials are looking at ways to reorganize the classrooms to create a "school within a school" so the ninth-graders will have as personalized an education as possible.

Several parents said they worry that students, particularly the young freshmen, will be lost in the shuffle.

"These children coming from junior high to the high school will have the biggest adjustment of their lives," said A.A. Moore. "I think you all need to consider the children first."

School officials have said moving the ninth-graders to the high school is necessary because of a state mandate for all-day kindergarten.

Creating classroom space for kindergarten means shuffling the freshmen from the junior high schools to the middle schools.

Jefferson High School currently has about 1,450 students. With the addition of the ninth-graders, the expected enrollment will be slightly more than 2,000 students there in 2000, Markoe said.

Lipp said the more than $10.5 million addition will add at least 21 additional classrooms, expand the music and band rooms, create a larger gymnasium and library and increase the size of the cafeteria.

"There is a resounding lack of consideration for students. We do not live in urban L.A.," said Mary Ann Zimmerman.

"I believe personally as a parent, as a taxpayer, as a person with a little brain power left, that this is not the best solution," Zimmerman said.

Norleen Hoadley said she worries a lot of students do not function well in a large school.

Parents also said a second high school is needed in Jefferson County rather than adding on to the already large Jefferson High. They said they believe that the way the county is growing, the additional space will be filled as soon as it opens in 2000.

Markoe said additional classroom space is needed as soon as possible and that planning, obtaining funds for and constructing a new high school would probably take five years.

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