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2-year plan eyed for kindergarten

March 10, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

2-year plan eyed for kindergarten

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Board of Education members reviewed a plan Monday night to start all-day kindergarten at county schools, but put off making a decision until they find out what happens with bills before the West Virginia Legislature.

Under the latest plan, all-day kindergarten would be phased in at all Jefferson County elementary schools over two years. The initial plan called for all-day kindergarten to be phased in over a three-year span.

Phasing in all-day kindergarten in two years will cost about $300,000 more because the school system will need to buy portable classrooms to house students at some elementary schools, said Sherry S. Hetzel, coordinator of instruction.

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Under the three-year plan, space would have been available without portables because the sixth-graders would be moved from elementary schools to middle schools as the ninth-graders are moved into the new Jefferson High School addition, Hetzel said.

Board officials approved putting out for bid a new cafeteria food service line as part of the high school expansion so the custom-built item will be ready for the cafeteria renovation this summer.

All-day kindergarten was mandated by the state in 1996 and school officials have sought waivers since then because there were not enough classroom spaces available.

Jefferson County Superintendent David W. Markoe said he believes the portables will be needed in the future anyway because of the county's growth, so they are worth the additional expense in the two-year phase-in plan.

Under the two-year plan, all-day kindergarten would begin in the 1998-1999 school year for students at Blue Ridge, North Jefferson, C.W. Shipley and Ranson elementary schools. It would begin in the 1999-2000 school year for students at South Jefferson, T.A. Lowery, Page Jackson and Shepherdstown elementary schools.

Jefferson County Board of Education President Peter H. Dougherty said he favors the two-year phase-in plan, but is concerned about a bill in Charleston, W.Va., that would change the way property planned for development is appraised if it becomes a law.

County officials have estimated that the school system would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from property taxes.

"Senate Bill 241 is a bad bill. It's a developers' relief bill," Dougherty said.

Currently, farm land purchased by developers and subdivided into housing developments is being taxed as commercial projects. Senate Bill 241 would roll back the taxes to a level as if the land had remained in farm use until homes are sold on them.

"The developers aren't farmers. The only thing they're growing is houses," Dougherty said.

School board members said they also want to see if the Legislature provides more funding to growing counties to hire more teachers.

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