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Ground broken for new elementary school

June 20, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN. W.Va. -- A tract of fertile land where, not so long ago, a farmer grew crops, will become a place where teachers grow the fertile minds of young students.

Ground officially was broken Saturday morning on 15 acres off Job Corps Road north of Charles Town for Jefferson County's newest school building, a facility for students in kindergarten through fifth grade that will hold 500 students, and, just as important, mark the beginning of the end of the district's dependency on portable classrooms for its elementary-school students.

Pete Dougherty, president of the Jefferson County School Board, said two more school construction projects in the hopper -- an addition to South Jefferson Elementary School and a new school to be built near the current Blue Ridge Elementary School -- will mean the end of all portable classrooms.

Site work already has started on the nearly 50,000-square-foot Job Corps Road school, the name of which has not yet been chosen. The cost of the building is pegged at $10 million, including $6.4 million from the School Building Authority (SBA) of West Virginia and $3.2 million from local impact fees, said Ralph Dinges, assistant schools superintendent.

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The land was donated to the district by B.C. Partners, developers of the nearby Breckenridge subdivision.

Students populating the new school will come mostly from currently overcrowded T.A. Lowery and C.W. Shipley elementary schools, plus the nearby Breckenridge subdivision, Halltown, Bakerton and other nearby areas.

About 60 faculty members will be employed in the new building, many of whom will switch from existing schools, Dinges said.

District officials got a bit of a break so far in that "very little rock" has been found on the site to slow construction and add to its cost, Dougherty said.

"We've moved a lot of earth here," he said of the site work done to date.

The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2010.

Tom Lange, an SBA member who spoke at Saturday's ceremony, said school districts across the state have posted a need for more than $167 million in construction projects.

"We have $65 million available," Lange said. "Grants are very competitive. Each district only gets five minutes to present its proposal before the board."

Lange is a former president of the Jefferson County Education Association and later a former president of the West Virginia Education Association.

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