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New high school may be needed in Jefferson Co.

December 24, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The growth being felt in neighboring states is heading toward Jefferson County, and the thought of a new high school here needs to begin in earnest, a school official said Wednesday.

Pete Dougherty, member of the Jefferson County Board of Education, said a recent story in a Loudoun County, Va., newspaper illustrates the type of growth that is closing in on Jefferson County.

The story said that Loudoun County, which adjoins the eastern edge of Jefferson County, is expected to get 22,000 new students in the next five years, according to Dougherty.

More than 20 schools would be needed to offset the growth, Dougherty said.

"We're surrounded by substantial growth," he said. "It's going to come to Jefferson County."

To asborb the expected increase in student population, the school system needs to immediately consider building a second high school, Dougherty said. Now is an excellent time to build a school because the economy is good and interest rates are low, he said.

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Dougherty said money for a new high school would probably have to come from several sources, including state funds and higher taxes.

"The faster we get on this with cheap money, the easier it will be for us," he said.

Board member Paul Manzuk said he is concerned about progressing too quickly.

Manzuk said there was speculation about eight years ago that the county was going to see a growth spurt, but it was not as big as expected.

Also, Manzuk said he is not sure the school system can afford to staff a new facility.

"That's something I'm really concerned about," he said.

Teresa McCabe, a member of a millenium committee that is advising the Board of Education on school issues, said she thinks the board will agree a second high school needs to be built after they see projections on how the student population is expected to grow in Jefferson County.

The projections call for the student population to grow from 7,100 students to 8,000 by 2010 for an average annual increase of about 75 students, she said.

Jefferson High School has 1,591 students, about 31 over capacity, said McCabe.

"Certainly we have not gotten to the point of how we are going to pay for this high school," she said.

The board is now planning to build a new middle school with $10.6 million it recently received from the state. School officials are planning to use the new building to house ninth-graders until a second high school can be built.

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