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School off to smooth start in Eastern Panhandle

A bus from Paw Paw High School was involved in an accident

A bus from Paw Paw High School was involved in an accident

August 26, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

EASTERN PANHANDLE -- The first day of classes for more than 28,000 public school students in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle Wednesday went relatively smoothly, administrators in the three counties said.

"We've had a good day, a very good day," Berkeley County Superintendent Manny P. Arvon II said in an interview about 5 p.m. after the last students went home.

Arvon estimated enrollment would exceed 17,500 students, up from more than 17,200 last year.

"We had a full house," Arvon said.

Morgan County Schools Assistant Superintendent Joan Willard said the first day of school "went smoothly" for about 2,494 students in grades kindergarten to 12 who attend the eight schools in the county.

"The busing flow went very nicely" in the morning and afternoon, she said.

A bus from Paw Paw High School with five Morgan County vocational students on their way to afternoon classes at James Rumsey Technical Institute near Hedgesville was involved in an accident in Berkeley County, but no one on the bus was hurt, Willard said.

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Other than the accident, it was a good first day, she said.

"We are excited about this new year," Willard said.

As of Wednesday, Jefferson County Superintendent Susan Wall said she expected enrollment to top 8,400 students.

"All in all, it was a good first day," Wall said.

The opening week of school this year partially overlaps the 57th Jefferson County Fair, but Wall said school officials are working to accommodate students who are showing livestock.

Wall said the school district this year hired 49 new teachers, which was down from years past, thanks to fewer retirements and resignations for jobs elsewhere.

School officials in Berkeley County hired 101 new teachers, which also was a decrease from last year, according to Berkeley County school officials.

While there are no new school buildings in the Eastern Panhandle this year, Arvon said the district had to add several more portable classrooms because of the growing student population. The county ended last year with 115 instructional cottages, Arvon said.

Efforts to add permanent classroom space are ongoing in Berkeley and Jefferson counties. Construction on a third wing at Eagle School Intermediate is under way and bids to construct a new "green" primary school in Spring Mills will be opened Sept. 22, Arvon said.

On Sept. 26, Berkeley County voters will decide whether to approve a $51.5 million bond issue to pay for four additional school construction/renovation projects -- a fourth high school at Spring Mills, a new middle school next to Mountain Ridge Intermediate near Gerrardstown, W.Va., renovation and addition to Martinsburg North Middle School, and additional classrooms at Musselman High School.

A new elementary school under construction in Jefferson County is expected to be open in fall 2010, officials have said. Last year, Jefferson County opened Washington High School, which allowed for the opening of Wildwood Middle School next to Jefferson High School. The middle school building had been used for the county's ninth-grade students.

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