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Panel predicts $60 million school bill

January 05, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County may need close to $60 million in new schools and renovations to existing schools to cope with a growing student population over the next decade, a committee announced Tuesday.

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Of that amount, about $25 million would be needed to build a second high school in the county, officials said.

The projections come from the Millennium Committee, a panel of 30 parents, educators, business leaders and residents who are helping to develop a 10-year comprehensive education facilities plan for the county.

The committee is still in the process of developing a complete plan for the school system. Future work involves a more detailed plan of exactly what kind of facilities are needed.

"This is not to be thought of as a recommendation. It's more of a shopping list," said David Lipp, an architect for the school system.

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A member of the Jefferson County Board of Education said last week that the growth in neighboring states is heading toward Jefferson County, and planning for a new high school needs to begin now.

Board member Pete Dougherty said Loudoun County, which borders Jefferson County to the east, is expected to get 22,000 new students in the next five years.

To handle the growth, Loudoun County will have to build 23 schools, Dougherty said.

Dougherty said now is the time to build a second high school in Jefferson County because the economy is good and interest rates are low, he said.

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

One 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.

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

The Millennium Committee said about $33.6 million will be needed to upgrade existing Jefferson High School, build a new high school, and build a vocational, industrial and technical facility in the county.

At the junior high level, about $14 million will be needed for renovations and expansions to the three junior high schools in the county, among other improvements.

Another $9 million could be spent for renovations and repairs to the nine elementary schools in the county.

School officials project up to 8,000 more students by 2010, an average annual increase of about 75 students.

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

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