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School systems get building funds

December 16, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The West Virginia school systems in Jefferson and Berkeley counties on Monday learned they received a combined $24.5 million in state money to help build new schools, word that drew a jubilant response from school officials in Jefferson County.

School officials in the two counties got the full amounts they had requested.

The state School Building Authority awarded $19 million to Jefferson County Schools, money that will help pay for a $48 million proposal to build a second high school and renovate Jefferson High School.

Berkeley County received $5,505,000 needed to build a new intermediate school in the Gerrardstown/Back Creek Valley area, Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said at the Board of Education meeting Monday night.

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The school, which will house 600 fourth- and fifth-graders, will be built at the intersection of W.Va. 51 and Sawmill Road, Arvon said.

Bids could be solicited this spring and construction is expected to begin early this summer, he said. The school is expected to open in the fall of 2005.

The $19 million awarded to Jefferson County reflects the efforts of dozens of people who worked to get the county school system the funding it needs, Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols said.

Nichols said the award was a good chapter in a long success story that involved developing long-range plans for the school system and successfully obtaining other money for the project, money some said would be tough to obtain.

"I'm ecstatic. Santa Claus came to Jefferson County a little early," Nichols said Monday.

"I'm just so excited. I think we had a great proposal. It's a great day for Jefferson County Schools," Jefferson County Board of Education President Lori Stilley said.

The next step will be working for passage of a $19 million school bond issue that will be put before Jefferson County voters in the May 11 primary election, Nichols and Stilley said.

Other sources of funding for the Jefferson County project include $6 million awarded by the state Economic Development Grant Committee.

The remaining $4 million is made up of two areas that already have been dealt with, school officials said.

One area is the land for the second high school. The developers of the 3,800-home Huntfield development have donated a 57-acre parcel of land valued at $3 million for the second high school.

The remaining $1 million reflects architectural drawings that have been drawn up for the renovation of Jefferson High School, school officials said.

Jefferson County Schools officials have been working for at least three years to build a second high school to relieve overcrowding at Jefferson High School.

Jefferson High School was designed for about 1,200 students, but has about 1,600.

In October, the state Board of Education traveled to the county to see conditions at Jefferson.

They saw how a teacher cafeteria and storage room had been converted to classroom space and five portable classrooms that have been moved to the school over the years to accommodate the growing student population.

Clacy Williams, the executive director of the School Building Authority, said Monday that the need for additional facilities in Jefferson County has been demonstrated for years.

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