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Despite construction, South High opens without disruption

August 31, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

South Hagerstown High School opened without disruption Monday, despite the ongoing construction, which is part of a $15-million renovation.

No major problems marred the first day of school for Washington County's approximately 19,800 students, according to school officials.

"Overall, things went great," said Director of Secondary Education Boyd Michael II. "Everything I'm hearing went smoothly."

Sixteen school systems in Maryland resumed classes Monday, according to the Maryland State Department of Education. Four counties opened last week and four more will open before Sept. 9.

The state's projected enrollment for kindergarten through 12th grade is about 850,000, a 1 percent increase compared to fall 1998.

South High is in the midst of a renovation that began in October 1998 and is scheduled to be finished in May 2000. Construction crews worked over the summer to get the school ready for classes.

The building has new rooms, furniture and a layout that confused some students.

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"Where's 'C' building at?" asked Shawn Kline, a freshman. He checked one of the maps posted on walls throughout the building.

Kline missed freshman orientation. But even veterans had some trouble finding classrooms, all of which have new numbers. "It's, like, really the same, it's just the way it's built," said senior Lee Simmons.

"It is difficult, even though I've been here two years," said Rebekah Miller, a senior. "It looks really good, though."

Parts of the grounds still resemble a construction site, with wood and pipe piled beside mounds of dirt in the rear. The central concourse isn't yet glassed in and some parts of the building are unfinished.

Almost all classrooms had bare walls and unpacked boxes, as teachers had little time to decorate. But the new sections were gleaming and students said they saw a vast improvement.

"It's a lot better than it looked," said Laurie Campbell, a visiting graduate. "It's a drastic change from the end of June until now."

David Asher, chairman of the school's business department, taught a computer class without electricity. Wiring wasn't finished Monday but he expected it to be done soon. Asher was impressed with the school's progress.

"It was absolutely amazing that we were able to pull this off," he said. "We're going to have a fine place to teach and learn."

Assistant Principal John Davidson said the first day had normal, minor problems. "The kids have been fantastic and the teachers did a yeoman's job," he said.

Citizens Advisory Committee Chairwoman Pamela Newhouse praised Principal Michael Shockey and his administration for their preparation. "I think Mr. Shockey and the staff have done an excellent job," she said.

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