Jefferson High School has about 1,450 students. With the addition of the ninth-graders to the high school, the expected enrollment will be slightly more than 2,000 students there in 2000, said Jefferson County Schools Superintendent David Markoe.
The West Virginia School Building Authority is funding the $10.5 million addition to Jefferson High School, which will add at least 21 classrooms, expand the music and band rooms, create a larger gymnasium and library and increase the size of the cafeteria.
Dougherty said county residents probably would have to fund a second high school, which he projected would cost more than $20 million. Middle and elementary schools are less expensive at $5 million to $8 million, he said.
Planning for a second high school would be considerably quicker because the county would not have to go through the bureaucratic process required by the West Virginia School Building Authority, Dougherty said.
The addition to Jefferson High School has been tied up with the state for about five years, he said. The county could probably start construction after about 18 months of planning, he said.
He said the West Virginia School Building Authority does not provide money for projected growth, only for growth that has already caused overcrowding, so funds for a second high school could not come from there.
The $10.6 million the authority has authorized for the Jefferson High addition cannot be used to pay for a second high school, Dougherty said.
Parents have turned out in recent weeks to complain about the planned addition to the high school and the moving of the ninth-graders.
Parent Diana Walch said she worries about ninth-graders who are 13 years old sharing a school building with seniors who are 18 or older.
"Thirteen-year-olds like to think they're worldly, but they're really not," she said.
School board members said the planned addition has been discussed at public meetings over the past four or five years.
"We're way too late to try to make any change," Dougherty said.
School board member Paul Manzuk said he liked the initial plan to keep the ninth-graders in a separate wing added to the high school years ago, but no one from the public supported him at meetings then.
"Where were the people two or three years ago? I can't think of one meeting where I had support in the audience," Manzuk said.
He said he could not understand how parents could complain at recent meetings that they did not know about the plans.
"This board has more newspaper coverage than any other board in the Tri-County area," Manzuk said.