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New school a cause for celebration

June 30, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Freshman Westley Jenkins will be among the first ninth-grade students in Jefferson County, W.Va., to attend a school all their own.

The new 9th Grade Complex across the street from Jefferson High School in Shenandoah Junction was dedicated Saturday. In the past, ninth-grade students have attended junior high schools with seventh- and eighth-grade students.

"Now we'll get our chance to play sports with confidence with kids our own age," said Westley, 14, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

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"We'll have more space and no smaller kids," added Aaron Light, 13, of Summit Point, W.Va.

More than 100 students, politicians, teachers, administrators and parents attended the outdoor dedication ceremony for the 85,000-square-foot school.

The new school will be a place "where friends meet, memories start and learning is a part of every event," 9th Grade Principal Ralph Dinges said.

Dr. Steven Nichols, who starts his job tomorrow as superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, urged the community to back the new 9th Grade Complex. He called the school's construction, which started last spring, "a testimony to our belief in the future."

The school features a large media center, several computer labs, a courtyard and a full stage in the cafeteria area. English, social studies, math and science teachers will each be equipped with three computers in addition to the 120 computers in other areas of the school.

The 9th Grade Complex will open at capacity with 600 students enrolled, Dinges said.

The school will provide much-needed space in a growing county that now offers all-day kindergarten and numerous special subjects, longtime Jefferson County School Board President Peter Dougherty said.

Schools in Jefferson County face serious overcrowding issues due to the area's growing population, Dinges said.

The $8.6 million 9th Grade Complex has room for expansion and may one day serve as the county's fourth middle school if plans materialize to build a second high school on donated land off U.S. 340, Dougherty said.

"It is imperative that that kind of initiative be pushed forward," he said.

Connie Perry of the West Virginia School Building Authority, which has contributed more than $14 million to school construction projects in Jefferson County, encouraged the use of bonds to help fund construction efforts.

Such local support enables the Building Authority to help build more schools throughout the state, Perry said. "Our goal at the School Building Authority is to put as many schools in this state as we can."

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