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First day fairly smooth for Jefferson County's new high school

August 27, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- The mood was upbeat yet strict Tuesday at the new Washington High School as administrators laid down the law on how things will work at the school.

During an orientation on the first day of classes, a little more than 1,000 students were told how any shirts making reference to gangs or smoking are not allowed.

Cell phones are not allowed, any fires set inside will be considered a felony offense and leggings will not pass for pants.

"Unless you're Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan, leggings are not pants," Principal Judy Marcus told girls in the orientation in the auditorium.

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The four-tiered discipline code was explained to students. The lowest level - "cool blue" - would go into effect for minor infractions such as a dress code violation, administrators told students.

The most serious fourth-level violation would cover incidents such as a bomb threat or an assault on a teacher, and students could face expulsion and criminal charges for those, administrators said.

Students were told not to jump and touch signs in the building.

"That's for elementary children," Marcus said.

Students can obtain a permit to park in the school's parking lot, but students have to abide by driving-related rules or the permits will be taken away, Assistant Principal Steve Morris told students.

No squealing of tires and similar acts will be tolerated and surveillance cameras are throughout the inside and outside of the building, Morris said.

"We can zoom in on you," Morris told the students. "We can tell who you are."

Morris said the cameras are powerful enough to read a number on a license plate in the parking lot and, if the sun is not reflecting too strongly on a car windshield, administrators will be able to see inside cars, Morris said.

After the orientation, Marcus said the school does not have any equipment to scan for possible weapons being brought into the school.

Administrators are alert to those type of situations, and students usually will report any weapons to administrators, Marcus said.

Other than some air conditioning problems at Washington High School and some typical "growing pains" dealing with transfer students at Jefferson High School, operations were going smoothly and teachers and students were upbeat at the schools Tuesday as the county went to a two-high school system.

Since 1972, Jefferson High School in Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., was the county's sole high school. In recent years, school administrators there dealt with overcrowded conditions.

The roughly $40 million Washington High School was built along Huyett Road to relieve Jefferson High School's population.

Jefferson High School recently underwent a $16 million renovation, and school officials made extra efforts to ensure the older high school was comparable with Washington High School.

Administrators at both schools would not allow a reporter to talk to students about how they felt about the two high schools. Administrators said parents of students first would have to approve of letting their children be interviewed.

Jefferson High School Principal Howard Guth said students did not mention the new high school Tuesday, and seniors seemed preoccupied with their last year in school.

Superintendent of Schools Susan Wall said air conditioning was not working in about six classrooms at Washington High School, and she attributed the situation to perfecting a sophisticated system that employs energy-efficient controls.

During the Washington High School orientation, students were instructed on how the three lunch shifts would work, that no one could bring fast food into the building for students and that administrators would be easy on tardiness this week as students find their way to the new classrooms.

"After this week, all bets are off," Assistant Principal Lisa Ott told students.

Although the students generally were well-behaved, administrators were stern at times, such as when a few students clapped after some rules were reviewed.

"I see we got some funny people in the audience," Morris said.

"You ladies all right? Are you sure?" Morris said, turning his attention to another group.

Guth said Jefferson High School officials were working out issues of students in the Jefferson High School district zone who wanted to attend Washington High School and vice versa.

The two schools were working cooperatively on the transfers, Guth said.

With Washington High School open, Jefferson High School's population had dropped from about 1,800 last year to 1,436 students, Guth said.

"There's still crowded hallways, but it's the nature of the building," Guth said.

The Charles Town Police Department said it would be aggressively patrolling the area around Washington High School Tuesday since the area in the vicinity of the Charles Town Bypass is a "natural drag strip."

City police wrote four tickets, mostly for speeding, and traffic was heavy on Augustine Avenue, which intersects with the bypass at the school, Capt. Glenn Stevens said.

Charles Town Police Chief Barry Subelsky previously said that speed limits around the school possibly might have to be reviewed.

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