Up the enrollment 'staircase'

October 05, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - By itself, the number may not seem substantial.

Think of it this way. Enough new students enrolled in Berkeley County schools this year to form more than 50 nine-player baseball teams. They could form nearly 100 five-person basketball teams or more than three dozen 11-player soccer teams.

Figures tallied one month into the new school year indicate 492 new students joined classrooms in the county. They range from kindergartners to high school seniors. Pre-kindergartners were not included.

It's the largest figure so far, with 438 new students enrolling the previous year, said Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon. He expects the record to last exactly one year.


"Every year, the number increases. When you look at our chart over the last 15 years, it's like a staircase," Arvon said.

School officials who used to expect a couple of hundred new students each fall probably will need to make room for 600 or 700 more each year in 10 years, Arvon said.

"I think that the major part of the growth is still to come," he said. "As the infrastructure of sewer and water get in place, houses follow."

Despite the new students, new problems and new pressures, school officials have relied on an old solution - planning ahead.

"I'm looking at 2013," Arvon said.

Growth is planned for in 10-year periods.

A new intermediate school opened outside Martinsburg last fall. A new middle school, which will hold approximately 750 students, is scheduled to open next fall in Spring Mills. It will relieve pressure at Hedgesville Middle.

Plans are also in place to build a new intermediate school in the Back Creek Valley/Gerrardstown area that will hold approximately 450 students.

Land has been purchased to build what will be the county's fourth high school. Planned to be built behind Spring Mills Middle, the school will most likely open in six or seven years, Arvon said.

Buying that land now but holding off on construction until a later date will save taxpayers millions of dollars, since land value continues to increase.

The community deserves those savings, Arvon said. Voters in Berkeley County have approved bonds in 1988, 1995 and 2001 to ensure funding for schools would be available.

"I don't know how you would address a population increase (like) what has hit Berkeley County without the support of our community," Arvon said.

The new schools being built also will save money. They are built in such a way that adding wings later is possible. Such wings will stave off the need to build even more new schools, Arvon said.

Opened in the late 1990s, Musselman High School and Musselman Middle School, both in the southern part of the county, and Potomack Intermediate in the northern part of the county are all over capacity.

Eight new classrooms are planned for Musselman High School, while a band room will be added to the middle school, freeing up two classrooms.

Renovations also are either under way or planned at another eight of the county's schools - Back Creek Valley Elementary, Bunker Hill Elementary, Hedgesville Elementary, Rosemont Elementary, Mill Creek Intermediate, Martinsburg South Middle School and Hedgesville High School. At Martinsburg High School, eight to 10 new classrooms will be added.

Although the county has not been able to find enough substitute bus drivers, which has caused some complaints, for the most part newcomers are impressed with both the new and the older schools, Arvon said.

Part of the county's success, Arvon believes, can be traced to the confidence residents have in school officials.

"In dealing with growth and dealing with it successfully, it comes down to the faith and trust that the community has in the School Board members," Arvon said.

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