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Officials seek $4.65 million for repairs

Berkeley County School officials hope to renovate South Middle School in Martinsburg.

Berkeley County School officials hope to renovate South Middle School in Martinsburg.

December 17, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County Schools officials returned from Charleston, W.Va., Monday, after requesting $4.65 million from the School Building Authority to renovate and expand South Middle School in Martinsburg.

The SBA is expected to announce in March whether the funding will be awarded.

Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon and Board of Education President Bill Queen made the presentation to SBA members, who come from various parts of the state.

If Berkeley County receives the funding, another $1.15 million in local money will be used to renovate South Middle, expand the school's kitchen, build new classrooms and create functional science laboratories, among other plans.

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If the funding is not received, the county will fall behind in its plan to complete nine school building projects by the year 2006.

"Losing a year could be devastating," Arvon said.

Built in 1952, South Middle has fallen victim to an ever-growing student population, said Arvon, a former South Middle principal. This year, 437 new students enrolled in schools throughout the county.

Additional curriculum programs, including special education and classes in the arts, means more space and teachers are needed.

To accommodate the needs, South Middle's stage was boarded up and is being used as a band classroom, a former teacher's lounge is now a special education classroom, three trailers were put in behind the school and some classrooms were partitioned to make two classrooms from what was one, Arvon said.

"It's to the point where it's time to renovate and turn that into a first-class building," Arvon said.

Both Arvon and Queen said they were encouraged by the reception they received from SBA members.

Normally county officials are a allowed a five-minute pitch, followed by a five-minute question-and-answer session. Arvon and Queen, though, were before the board for 25 minutes.

"I think we have a good rapport with those people," Queen said. "The SBA has been very kind to us."

Since its inception 14 years ago, the SBA has awarded more than $35 million to Berkeley County.

Overall, for every dollar contributed by the SBA, $2 in local money is used for building projects in Berkeley County. Some projects will be funded entirely by local money, Queen said.

Normally, school employees make their pitches in November and hear around this time whether they have received SBA funding, board members said.

This year, possibly because of the state's projected $250 million budget shortfall, both were postponed a bit. Now, SBA decisions will not be made until after the state Legislature's 60-day session begins in January.

South Middle, beside Martinsburg High School off Queen Street, was named a state School of Excellence two years ago.

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