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Washington High School comes to Jefferson County

August 24, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Tuesday marks a new milestone in Jefferson County education - the opening of a second high school.

Washington High School, along Huyett Road south of downtown Charles Town, was built to relieve crowded conditions at Jefferson High School, which has been the county's sole high school since 1972.

The roughly $40 million high school, which took a little more than three years to construct, sports a distinctive design that includes a dome over the front of the school that is meant to reflect classic designs of other schools and the general feel of the county's history, Principal Judy Marcus said.

For the students who will be the first Washington High School Patriots, it's about forging their own identity, crafting their own sports teams and exploring academic offerings that will be built on by instructors through the years.

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The Herald-Mail spent a recent afternoon with five students who will be among the first of an estimated 1,050 students in the building this year.

Cody Diehl, 14, Nick Burgess, 15, Angela Szymanski, 14, Jordyn Dillman, 14, and Lora Moffett, 14, led a Herald-Mail news crew through the building, talking excitedly about the school's gigantic gymnasium, a bookstore, auditorium, science labs, a television production studio and an expansive cafeteria lined on one side by windows that look out across the countryside.

The students remarked about the school's 22-foot main hallways and they walked into the dark, richly appointed auditorium.

They plopped down in the stadium-like chairs and started talking about things to come.

TV, sports ... and chewing gum

The room makes Angela think about the television production courses she signed up for.

JCS Television is the Jefferson County Schools television station, where students help produce news and other programs. The station, which can be viewed on Comcast channel 19, is scheduled to air 42 athletic events this fall from Jefferson and Washington high schools.

Cody and Nick later went into a studio where JCS Television programs will be created. Jefferson High School also has a studio, said Rob Perks, who oversees the operation.

Cody and Nick talked excitedly between themselves in the studio and marveled over new recording equipment.

A stack of blank CDs caught the eyes of Nick, and Perks explained to the boys a machine that he is using to burn material onto the discs.

Suddenly, the conversation turned to a different issue.

Will students, Nick and Cody asked, be able to chew gum in the school?

Probably not, Perks said.

"I tell you, Mrs. Marcus runs a very, very tight ship," Perks told the boys.

Cody and Nick also were excited about Patriot sports.

"We're going to beat everybody in baseball," Nick said. "Go ahead and put that in the newspaper."

On the other hand, no one is expecting a lot from the young football team, Cody said.

That's OK, because the team will surprise everyone when they're not expecting it, he said.

"There will be a lull (in the game), then we'll crack them in the head," Cody said.

The students thought about building their sports tradition.

"It's cool if we do good," Lora said.

"If we beat Jefferson, that will be good," Jordyn said.

Nick said he is looking forward to his senior year, when his younger brother, Patrick, will be a freshman. Then, Nick is looking forward to initiation for his brother and their classmates.

'We'll make it work'

The simple things often caused amazement in the students.

Jordyn looked down in the cafeteria and was happy over movable chairs at cafeteria tables. Chairs were hooked to tables in her schools before.

"It's so big and open," said Lora, looking down occasionally to send text messages on her cell phone.

Nick and Cody showed off science labs on the second floor and the students said they are impressed by the computer network in the library.

Meanwhile, outside heavy construction equipment operators still were working on school practice fields.

Where other schools are getting ready for students with their resources already in place, Washington High School teachers and administrators are up against opening day and still working to get things in place.

Textbooks still are coming in, and the library's book collection still is being worked on, Assistant Principal Steve Morris said.

"You just go with what you got," Morris said. "We'll make it work."

In fact, Morris seems to thrive on the pressure.

"It's exciting," Morris said. "It's very exciting."

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