Schools going portable

December 11, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said Saturday the school system is buying 16 portable classrooms to help offset space demands next year to handle the county's growing student population.

About half of the portable classrooms will be put at four Martinsburg area elementary schools to allow them to expand from half-day to full-day kindergarten classes, Arvon said.

State-mandated, full-day kindergarten was started in the southern part of the county this year and began in the northern part of the county in 1998, Arvon said.

He said he would have preferred having kindergarten classes in school buildings, but he can't wait any longer to provide full-day kindergarten to Martinsburg area students. Martinsburg is the only area of the county that doesn't yet have full-day kindergarten.


"When you're dealing with a growth rate like we have, it's hard to build buildings fast enough," Arvon said.

It is not unusual for Berkeley County's student population to grow by 300 to 400 students a year, which is enough to fill an elementary school, said local economic development officials.

Arvon told state lawmakers during interim meetings last month in Shepherdstown that Berkeley County's student population will grow by 3,500 students over the next ten years. By 2015, Berkeley County is expected to surpass Kanawha County as the biggest school system in the state, he said.

About two portable classrooms each will be used at Berkeley Heights, Tuscarora, Opequon and Rosemont elementary schools, Arvon said. The extra space is needed to bring about 350 half-day kindergarten students to full-day status, he said.

Approximately 8 additional portable classrooms will be needed to create more space in high schools in the county, Arvon said. Although he could not say exactly how the portable classrooms will be used, about five will be needed at Hedgesville High School and one will be needed at Martinsburg High School.

The schools will begin using the portable classrooms next year, he said. The Berkeley County Board of Education is in the process of purchasing the classrooms, which cost about $30,000 each, he said.

Although Arvon said educators would rather not use portable classrooms, they will become a necessity in Berkeley County over the next few years. The classrooms, which look similar to mobile homes, can be moved to other locations as space needs change.

"You will see us moving trailers from building to building," Arvon said.

Eastern Panhandle lawmakers have tried to generate more money for new school construction in the area, but it has been difficult.

The Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce has suggested that the state award extra school construction money to counties where voters approve levies to raise money for new schools. The chamber did not propose a specific formula, saying that is up to lawmakers.

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