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Funding for second high school discussed at forum

February 17, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

Funding for second high school discussed at forum

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County residents asked state school officials Wednesday night to allow the county to transfer money for a planned addition to the high school into a fund to construct a second high school.

But Clacy Williams, director of the West Virginia School Building Authority, said the county is not allowed to change the plans that were approved by the state.

He also said that if the county returns the $10.6 million and reapplies to have the funds used for a second high school, it would still have to compete against the other 54 counties in West Virginia seeking funds for their schools.

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Williams and other officials answered questions from Jefferson County residents at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Jefferson County at the Wright Denny School Auditorium. About 60 people attended.

Parents raised a variety of issues, including the amount of money being spent on the new gym at Jefferson High School and the increased number of students at the school, which will have an enrollment of about 2,100 when 600 ninth-graders are moved in.

Williams said many schools in the nation do well with 2,500 to 3,000 students enrolled and he said there are quite a few schools across the state with 1,500 to 1,800 students.

Williams said the county appears to be doing the right thing as a "stop-gap" measure to handle growth by adding on to the current facility until a second high school can be constructed.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent David Markoe said the county wants to complete the addition to the high school and seek funding for a second high school.

He said if a second high school is built, the enrollment would be split evenly between the two.

The new addition could then be reconfigured to provide space for vocational education programs, space that would be needed if Berkeley County no longer allows students from other counties to attend the James Rumsey Technical Institute, Markoe said.

Williams said the School Building Authority receives about $17 million a year to disperse among 55 counties.

He said the largest amount given since 1994 was about $6 million.

Williams said there is no guarantee that Jefferson County would receive $10.6 or even less money if the county returned the funds and reapplied for funding for a second high school, as several parents suggested.

A new high school would cost between $15 million and $18 million, he said.

County Commissioner R. Gregory Lance said the state should change the school funding formula so that the Eastern Panhandle counties, which pay more in taxes, get more money back for their school systems.

"You're paying the taxes already. We need to get them back to the Panhandle, where they belong," Lance said.

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