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Students get back to the books in W.Va.

August 27, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It was the first day of school in the Eastern Panhandle Tuesday, and that meant another day of accommodating growing student populations in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

Despite the challenge, school officials in the two counties said the opening day went very well.

Other than a minor lightning strike at Marlowe Elementary School in Martinsburg, W.Va., and normal problems like tending to glitches in student schedules, there were few surprises in Berkeley County Schools, said Superintendent of Schools of Manny Arvon.

Arvon said one positive aspect of the growth in the area is that it has forced the Berkeley County school system to become skilled at offering a calm learning environment to children in the face of the challenges.

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"This was the best opening day we've had. I was just so pleased," Arvon said.

In Jefferson County, bus operations went well and students were well behaved, making for a "picture-perfect" day, said Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols.

"It was a pretty dull day, but we were glad for that," Nichols said.

But it wasn't boring everywhere.

In Marlowe, W.Va., lightning struck a chimney Monday afternoon on Marlowe Elementary School along U.S. 11, said Berkeley County Schools spokeswoman Mary Jo Brown.

The lightning strike caused minor damage to the chimney when it knocked some concrete off the top, Brown said.

The strike came just as the last group of students was preparing to leave the school for home, Brown said.

The students were placed on their bus and sent home, Brown said.

Arvon did not have complete student population numbers Monday, but said the school system probably will see about as many new students - 438 - as it did last year.

"It appears we will do at least that this year," Arvon said.

Berkeley County had about 13,800 students last year, which caused the county to surpass Wood County as the second largest school system in the state, Arvon said.

Under the county's student population projections, Berkeley County is expected to surpass Kanawha County as the biggest school system in the state by 2015.

Nichols anticipated that about 250 new students would show up in Jefferson County Schools, pushing the county's student population to roughly 7,300 when kindergarten students are included.

Several school construction projects were still under way Tuesday.

At Hedgesville (W.Va.) High School, work continues on building a new gymnasium and five new classrooms, said Assistant Principal Nancy Springer.

Despite the construction - combined with an estimated 100 new students who showed up at the high school Monday - things went well, Springer said.

"Most of them pre-registered, so we knew they were coming," Springer said of the new students.

The work at Hedgesville High School also includes a new air conditioning system, Arvon said.

The air conditioning units probably will be placed on the roof of the building on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Arvon said. Arvon said the Friday classes will be canceled because he does not want students in the building while crews are lifting the heavy units over the building.

Parents will be notified about which weekend the work will be done, he said.

At Rosemont Elementary in Martinsburg, students returned to a building that was renovated to convert six open classrooms and a media center into nine individual classrooms, Arvon said. Old windows were replaced in a section of the building, he said.

Portable classrooms have become commonplace at schools in both counties as school officials try to find enough space for students.

Arvon said five new portable classrooms were purchased this year and it appears three more will have to be purchased. Those are in addition to other portable classrooms that were purchased in the spring, he said.

In Jefferson County, eight portable classrooms had to be purchased for this school year.

Four new portable classrooms have been added to Charles Town (W.Va.) Middle School, for a total of 16 portable classrooms at the school, said the school's interim principal Dale Shaffer.

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