Berkeley, Jefferson awarded school money

December 13, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY and DAVE MCMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - In Martinsburg South Middle School, about 125 students can sit in the school's cafeteria at any one time, which is a problem considering about 900 students attend the school, Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said.

On Monday, the state's School Building Authority announced that Berkeley County will receive a $3.45 million grant. Combined with $550,000 in local funding, the $4 million will be used to build a new cafeteria and kitchen at the middle school and convert existing administrative offices into classrooms, with new offices to be built.

The existing cafeteria will be turned into a science lab, Arvon said.

Along with granting the award to Berkeley County, the SBA awarded Jefferson County $953,795 to renovate an elementary school.

Statewide, 25 counties will receive more than $66 million.

Once the ongoing renovations at South Middle School are finished, all of the projects included in a 2001 bond call will have been completed, Arvon said.


Arvon said voters could be approached again for a bond call in two years, with the funding likely to be used to build four to six new schools.

The student population in the county grows by about 640 to 700 a year, with 3,000 new students enrolling in the last five years. To keep up, the county has built seven schools in the last eight years.

Updating 50-year-old South Middle, off North Queen Street across from Martinsburg High School, was overdue, Arvon said.

"We took a 1955 building and moved it into the 21st century," he said.

Phase I of the completed renovations at the middle school, which cost around $6 million, included refurbishing and enlarging the school's gymnasium and boys locker room, building a band room, creating science laboratories/classrooms, installing teachers' lounges and installing a ceiling, flooring, lights and windows.

The kitchen and cafeteria will be built on the front of the building by the gymnasium and will wrap around to the site of an outdoor basketball court. The court will be relocated, Arvon said.

Since 1990, around $80 million in local funding has been invested into the county's school system, with the county able to match SBA funding by a 2-1 ratio, Arvon said.

The other projects in the $27.8 million 2001 bond call were building a middle school in Spring Mills and an intermediate school to serve the communities of Back Creek Valley and Gerrardstown as well as renovating and building additions to Bunker Hill Elementary School, Martinsburg High School, Hedgesville High School, Mill Creek Intermediate School, Hedgesville Elementary School and Back Creek Valley Elementary School.

The work at Bunker Hill Elementary and Mill Creek Intermediate is under way, Arvon said.

Completing all of the projects shows the county will build what it claims it will build, Arvon said.

"It sends a clear message that we spend our money wisely," he said.

Jefferson County Schools officials asked for nearly $4 million, but received $953,795.

The money will be used to overhaul the heating and air conditioning system at Blue Ridge Elementary School, said Lori Stilley, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education.

The remaining money that the school system requested was targeted for similar work at South Jefferson Elementary School and C.W. Shipley Elementary School, Stilley said.

Stilley said she is happy that the Blue Ridge Elementary School project will be funded, but is anxious to hear from the School Building Authority about its justification for not funding the other two projects.

"It's really a needed project," Stilley said of the Blue Ridge Elementary job. "But so were the other ones."

Stilley said she has had concerns about the School Building Authority not being objective in the way it funds projects, although some changes have been made in the way it makes decisions.

School money

The state's School Building Authority announced Monday that 25 counties were awarded more than $66 million for school building and renovation projects.

Local awards were:

  • Berkeley County: $3.45 million

  • Jefferson County: $953,795
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