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Officials

Disputes, lack of money delay high school

April 07, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Lack of money and disputes with housing developer Greenvest L.C. have kept the Jefferson County Board of Education from building a second high school, school officials said Friday night at a public forum attended by about 70 people.

Parents who attended the forum at Jefferson High School urged the School Board to move quickly to build a school because of anticipated increases in the student population due to development. They also expressed concern that officials should be cautious not to overspend.

School Board President Lori Stilley said Friday the board was denied this week a $15 million grant from the state School Building Authority. The grant was crucial for school construction, she said.

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Greenvest L.C., a Vienna, Va.-based firm, plans to build 4,000 homes in the Huntfield development in Charles Town, officials said Friday night. As part of a deal with Charles Town officials, school officials said, the company agreed in 1999 to give the Board of Education 75 acres of land on which to build a high school and an elementary school.

Since then, the Board of Education and Huntfield have been unable to agree on several issues, including what piece of land the board would get, how much work Huntfield would perform on the land before turning it over to the School Board and how much the land is worth, schools Superintendent Steven Nichols said Friday night.

Rebecca Sullivan, 39, of Bakerton, W.Va., said she felt things have not been made clear about the land deal.

"It's come to the Board of Education's word versus Huntfield's word, and who do you believe?" Sullivan said.

She said she also felt Charles Town officials should "force (Greenvest officials) to the table and get this worked out right away," prompting members of the audience to break into applause.

David Pennock, 47, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., said he is a parent of three children in the county and is worried that Jefferson High - with a student population of 1,400 - is getting overcrowded.

"I'm appalled at the size of the student population," Pennock said. "Our needs are immediate to get a new high school. ... We need to pursue all avenues of funding the best we can."

Tom Trumble, 58, of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., attended the forum Friday although he said he doesn't have children in schools. Since the schools receive the bulk of local taxes, he said, "What's talked about here is going to have real implications for our taxes and for our kids."

Stilley said the School Board is advocating several ways to raise money. However, she said, with a student population that will be increasing in the near future, money is tight.

"We're currently constantly fighting to keep up," Stilley told the audience.

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