Berkeley County school gets funds for renovations

March 29, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Hedgesville (W.Va.) Elementary School could be the proverbial poster child for Berkeley County Schools' ever-present need to expand facilities to accommodate exploding student enrollment.

Two years after a major renovation was completed at the Schoolhouse Road campus, school leaders find themselves fortunate to be able to add at least four classrooms, possibly six, thanks to a $500,000 grant awarded Monday by the state School Building Authority (SBA).

Since the first renovation, officials added four portable classrooms to the campus where enrollment has topped 630 students, according to SBA records.

"We opened that school (two years ago) with 500 students," school district Superintendent Manny P. Arvon said Wednesday.

The SBA award comes as school officials anticipate the completion later this spring of their 15th and last capital improvement project (South Middle School in Martinsburg) to be financed in part by a bond issue approved by county voters in 2001.


School administrators now find themselves planning to ask voters to support another bond issue that Arvon anticipates will be placed on the ballot within the next 12 to 18 months to support the third and final phase of a 10-year comprehensive plan.

"I think it's safe to say in Berkeley County, we'll always be building schools," Arvon said.

Before that happens, Arvon said school leaders will ask SBA officials in Charleston, W.Va., for more financial help in October, when they are expected to make presentations for larger needs than the Major Improvement Plan project awards announced this week.

Those larger needs include a new high school and elementary school in northern Berkeley County, a new middle school in the southern end of the county and several major building additions, such as the one under way at South Middle School.

"(The SBA members) have looked at us very favorably because of our success with bond calls," Arvon said.

Though housing construction declined somewhat last year, Arvon doesn't expect any possible decline in enrollment growth to continue over the longer term. He was unable to provide enrollment projections for the next school year.

Aside from building improvements, school leaders were notified earlier this month by state Sen. John Unger that $100,000 had been secured to improve safety concerns at North Middle School in Martinsburg and assist with parking expansion at the neighboring Berkeley 2000 Recreation Center.

James Welton, chairman of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board, said Wednesday that local officials had yet to receive official notification of the award, but said the project would address a congestion problem involving school buses and parents picking up their children, and afford a second access point to the recreation center.

"It really will be a major improvement," Welton said.

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