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School Board considers options

September 25, 2000

School Board considers options



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Schools officials began looking at other options Monday to meet the school system's growth needs after voters resoundingly turned down a $39 million school construction bond.

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The options being considered do not offer much promise.

The $39 million construction bond, which was defeated by about 66 percent of voters on Saturday, would have paid for a second, $31.8 million high school in the southern part of the county. The bond was rejected by 3,241 voters and got the support of 1,639 voters.

School officials had planned to temporarily house ninth-graders in a planned middle school near Jefferson County High School until space opened up in the new high school. Now that the bond issue has failed, those ninth-graders may have to stay at the middle school longer than expected, Superintendent of Schools David W. Markoe said Monday.

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That will result in more crowding in the middle schools because the new middle school won't be serving its intended purpose, Jefferson County Board of Education members said Monday.

The other problem is the status of Jefferson High School, which is about 100 students over capacity.

Because the new middle school will be built adjacent to Jefferson High, about three or four high school classes could be taught in the new building, Markoe said. But that still does not address all the potential overcrowding problems at the 30-year-old high school, Markoe said.

"As we grow some, that will only become worse and worse," Markoe said.

There were a number of issues at play in the bond proposal.

The bond would have provided $1.2 million for construction cost increases at the new middle school. Now that the bond has failed, the school system will attempt to find other sources for that money, Markoe said.

School officials will have to continue with plans to build the new middle school because the state School Building Authority has already awarded $7.4 million for the project, Markoe said.

One possible source for the $1.2 million might be taking funds from the refinancing of another bond. The Board of Education refinanced the bond earlier in the year to renovate the Jefferson High School stadium complex and auditorium, among improvements at other schools.

"We're not going to find $1.2 million, I'll tell you. But we may be able to look at some reductions here or there," Markoe said.

Markoe said he does not believe any academic programs will be cut to make up funding shortfalls.

"That's the last area I would want to cut into," Markoe said.

Board of Education members decided to hold a special election for the construction bond on Saturday because they believed waiting until the Nov. 7 general election would be too late to get consideration for more funding from the School Building Authority.

Besides the $39 million construction bond, board members were also planning to request $4 million from the School Building Authority to pay for renovations throughout the county's middle schools and elementary schools.

The board wanted to have the election Saturday because funding requests to the School Building Authority must be submitted by next month.

The Board of Education went to voters for approval of the bond because the authority said the school system must pass a bond before it would put any money into school construction projects.

Instead of the $4 million request, Markoe said the board may request the $1.2 million needed for the middle school from the authority.

School Building Authority director Clacy Williams said the board is working with a very tight deadline to get any authority funding.

"You don't pull these plans together in two or three weeks," Williams said.

"We will have to make some pretty tough decisions now," Board of Education President Larry Togans said.

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