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2 school districts each get $1 million

December 09, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- School districts in Berkeley and Jefferson counties each have received $1 million to build additions at two schools.

The money represents nearly 20 percent of the $10.4 million in Major Improvement (MIP) grants announced this week by the West Virginia School Building Authority.

Eagle School Intermediate just outside of Martinsburg and South Jefferson Elementary School near Summit Point, W.Va., will receive the building upgrades, officials said.

Both projects are expected to be completed in 2010, the same year school officials have targeted as the completion date for a new school in each county that received SBA funding in April 2008.

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When it opened in 2001, Eagle School Intermediate's "core area" was designed for a third wing, which will be built with the SBA money and $300,000 that the school district has committed to the project, Berkeley County Schools superintendent Manny P. Arvon II said Tuesday.

"We are very pleased to receive this money," said Arvon, who credited the SBA for recognizing the community's financial support for building new schools.

Jefferson County Board of Education committed $830,000 for its project, which includes the addition of five classrooms and bathrooms at the 37-year-old building, according to the school district's Web site. The project will be the building's fourth addition.

Jefferson County Board of Education president Pete Dougherty said Tuesday that, based on enrollment growth projections, completion of the new elementary school and building addition could allow the school district to remove 80 to 90 percent of more than 30 modular classrooms in use at the county's elementary schools.

"It's messy for the school," Dougherty said. The district's goal is to remove all trailers from the elementary schools to alleviate safety and programming concerns, he said.

Arvon said about 2,800 students each day use 111 "instructional cottages" now in place at Berkeley County schools.

"We have constructed about 1 million square feet of instructional space ... and we still have that many portable classrooms," Arvon said of the county's growth in enrollment over the last several years.

Upon completion of the Eagle School expansion, Arvon said students in third grade will also be taught with fourth- and fifth-graders there, Arvon said.

Arvon said Eagle School's "feeder" schools now use six portable classrooms and might need two more by the time the wing is completed.

The Eagle School project is expected to follow the expected completion timeline for the Spring Mills primary school, which was designated by state Department of Education to be the state's first "green" school.

Berkeley County received $10 million for the Spring Mills project, which is expected to offset crowding at primary schools in Bedington and Marlowe, W.Va.

Arvon said the county's other school building needs - including a new high school at Spring Mills and a new middle school in southern Berkeley County - depend in large part on the economy.

The school board will decide in the weeks ahead whether or not to ask voters to support a bond call to help finance the construction of the two schools and two other major building additions, Arvon said.

"We're optimistic, and we hope that in the next couple months we'll see an upswing in the economy," Arvon said.

"As our high schools are approaching 2,000 enrollments, we absolutely need (a fourth high school)," Arvon said.

If opened today, the new high school would eliminate the need for 30 portable classrooms, Arvon said.

Dougherty said Jefferson's next significant project is construction of an addition or annex at Blue Ridge Elementary School, which would address transportation and safety concerns.

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