Some W.Va., Pa. students go back to school

August 27, 1998

Back to schoolBy KERRY LYNN FRALEY / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer [enlarge]

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Fifth-grader Matthew Miles wasn't disappointed Wednesday morning when he arrived for his first day at Potomack Intermediate School and found a work in progress.

In fact, the hills of dirt and rock around the unlandscaped brick-and-rock building were sort of a bonus, said Miles, 10, who was looking forward to attending the new school rather than returning to Marlowe Elementary.

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Berkeley County began the 1998-99 school year Wednesday with two new schools, Potomack Intermediate School in Falling Waters, W.Va., for grades three through five, and Musselman High School in Inwood, W.Va.


Morgan County, W.Va., began the school year with the new Warm Springs Middle School, drawing nearly 500 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from everywhere in the county except Paw Paw, said Principal Dennis Albright.

Although she wouldn't have a count until today, Berkeley County Schools spokeswoman Mary Jo Brown said Wednesday afternoon that it looked like the school system was on target in predicting 400 to 500 more students than last year's roughly 13,000.

The first day went smoothly at all of the county's schools, Brown said.

Morgan County was expecting about 2,240 students, according to school officials.

In Jefferson County, W.Va., the student population was up by roughly 93 students, said county schools spokeswoman Liz Thompson. That number could increase as the school year gets under way, she said.

Last year, the first-day enrollment was 6,099 and on Wednesday it was 6,192, said Thompson.

Some students might miss some of the first few days of school because of the Jefferson County Fair, which continues through Saturday in Leetown, W.Va. Those showing an animal or an exhibit at the fair can claim an excused absence, said Thompson.

While it might have appeared things were in disarray at Potomack Intermediate, the $5.1 million construction project was on schedule, with all the priority interior work finished in time for students, said Principal Rodney Woods.

The lack of landscaping and other unfinished odds and ends didn't affect the excitement of opening day, which went off without a hitch, Woods said.

Still counting on Wednesday afternoon, he said he estimated attendance at 625 to 650 students, all of whom would have gone to Hedgesville, Bedington and Marlowe elementary schools if the school hadn't opened.

From what he saw during a tour with his class that morning, Miles said the 65,000-square-foot school has a lot of advantages over his old school, including a lot more space and a real gym for physical education.

Students will be able to do so much more in the gym than they could in a cleared-out cafeteria, said physical education teacher Steve Keesecker, who taught physical education in the Tuscarora Elementary cafeteria last year.

The gym is big enough and has high enough ceilings for the students to play volleyball and basketball, Keesecker said.

"This is pretty much an ideal setup," he said.

It's going to be a treat teaching in a room designed for music, with ample space, soundproofing and room for storage, said teacher Pam Lehr.

"I tell the kids, when we get up and move around we won't be bumping elbows," said Lehr, who taught at Winchester Avenue and Gerrardstown elementary schools last year.

The new 180,000-square-foot $16.1 million Musselman High School seemed even larger Wednesday, when freshmen ran through an abbreviated school day.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors at all Berkeley County high schools get an extra day of summer vacation to give freshmen a chance to adjust to the differences between middle school and high school, said Principal Kitty Cauffman.

Freshman Clay Michael said he appreciated having a day to get used to the school before the older students returned.

"It's nice, but it's just pretty big," said Michael, 14, of Bunker Hill, W.Va.

It was almost like being a freshman again, said senior Alyssa Rice, who gave up the last day of her vacation to serve as a guide on orientation day.

"I like it. I liked the other school, too. I'll only be here a year, so the other school will always be home to me," said Rice, 17.

Still, the new school has its advantages, including better-equipped science labs and five practice rooms for band students, she said.

Because the school is bigger, it's going to take more time to walk to classes, said junior Brad Roberts, 16, of Back Creek Valley.

But students won't have to walk outside, like they did at the old school, said Roberts, who also served as a guide.

Franklin County, Pa.

For students in Franklin County, Pa., the first day back was a full schedule of classes for all grades, and officials at several districts reported smooth sailing Wednesday.

"We've had an outstanding day. It was very quiet and the teachers and staff were well-prepared" said Edwin Sponseller, superintendent of the Chambersburg Area School District.

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