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School enrollment rises in Berkeley, Jefferson Cos.

November 06, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon II has no qualms about the school district ending the decade with what might be the smallest increase in student enrollment during that span.

For the 2009-10 school year, the county reported a second-month enrollment of 17,462 to the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE), Arvon said this week.

If accepted by the state, the figure would represent an increase of 248 students over last year's enrollment, according to data archived on the state Department of Education's Web site.

"This isn't a bad thing by any means," Arvon said of consecutive enrollment increases that have fallen below 400 students.

Excluding this year's increase, enrollment since 2000 grew by 4,138 students, according to school district data. Increases of more than 500 students were recorded for five consecutive school years until dipping to a gain of 346 students last year, according to the state Department of Education's Web-based data system.

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According to the WVDE preliminary figures, Martinsburg High School (1,713) remains the largest of the county's three high schools, followed by Hedgesville (1,658) and Musselman High school (1,565). Enrollment figures are expected to be finalized later this month, according to WVDE spokesperson Liza Cordeiro.

While the enrollment increases appear to have declined with the economy, Arvon said the slower enrollment growth has been "wonderful" for the school system because it can more easily adjust to the needs of students enrolled.

"For us to be picking up 200-plus students (in this economy) is interesting in itself," said Arvon, who expects the rate of enrollment to increase again in the next year or two.

In Jefferson County, School Board President Peter H. "Pete" Dougherty confirmed Friday the school district reported a gain of nearly 200 students, pushing total enrollment to nearly 8,600.

The increase was about double the 99-student increase from last year, Dougherty said.

Because of the economy, Dougherty said the enrollment increase might have been caused, at least in part, by families who decided not to pay for their children to attend private school this year.

Even with the spike in enrollment, Dougherty said the school district is on track to remove all portable classrooms from county elementary schools within the next two years.

An elementary school under construction off Job Corps Road is on schedule to open in August 2010 and the district is in the design phase of building a primary school (kindergarten to second grade) at Blue Ridge, Dougherty said.

The school district also is planning to add capacity to South Jefferson Elementary School, Dougherty said.

Jefferson High School remains the largest high school, with an enrollment of more than 1,300, according to WVDE data. An enrollment gap of nearly 300 students between Jefferson and Washington High, which opened last year, will shrink next year when students who opted to stay at Jefferson High have graduated, Dougherty said.

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