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Berkeley County enrollment sparks talk of a fourth high school

October 21, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- With an enrollment approaching 1,300 students, Musselman Middle School in southern Berkeley County appears to be West Virginia's largest middle school, according to school district administrators.

"They're like the 10th-largest school (including high schools) in the state," Berkeley County Schools Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto said Monday, hours after the county reported its official enrollment figures to the West Virginia Department of Education.

County enrollment increased by 362 students over last year's tally to 17,320, Aliveto said of the district's "second month report." The increase was the district's lowest in six years, Aliveto said. The enrollment increase last year was 546 students, and Aliveto said there were three gains of about 700 before that.

Musselman Middle School increased from 1,180 to 1,258 this year, but Aliveto said the growth in enrollment was generally spread across the board. Aliveto said there are about 30 fewer kindergarten students this year than last.

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With 1,760 students this year, Martinsburg High School is the largest of the county's three high schools, followed by Hedgesville (1,730) and Musselman (1,498), Aliveto said. Last year, Martinsburg and Hedgesville High each had 1,654.

With enrollments continuing to rise, Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon II said Monday evening that the Berkeley County Board of Education was meeting this week to discuss financing plans to build the county's fourth high school in northern Berkeley County at the Spring Mills campus.

A bond levy election has been eyed for the project, but Arvon said the current economic conditions have to be assessed as well.

With financing for a new primary school at the Spring Mills campus already in place, the school board on Monday evening selected Triad Engineering of Winchester, Va., to complete an environmental site assessment for the project. The engineering firm submitted a $1,400 bid.

Given past enrollment spikes, Arvon said the enrollment figures for this school year "gives us a little time to catch our breath." But he noted that Hedgesville and Martinsburg high schools now have 24 instructional "cottages" or portable classrooms on campus and there are now a total of 117 in use in the county.

In the last 10 years, Arvon said the county had built about 970,000 square feet of instructional space, including nine classrooms added at Martinsburg High and "12 or so" added at Hedgesville high school, Arvon said.

"We still have probably 1,400 4-year-olds that we could add (if we had the room)," Arvon said of the county's pre-K programs.

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