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Opening of new primary school expected to reduce enrollment at two other elementaries

March 22, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • In this photo, taken in January, Spring Mills Primary School looked fairly complete from the outside. It is scheduled to open for students in August, Berkeley County Schools officials have said. The school is on Campus Drive off U.S. 11.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The opening of Spring Mills Primary School this fall is expected to lower enrollment at Bedington and Marlowe elementary schools to about 150 or 160 students, officials said.

The boundaries for the new school’s district approved by the Berkeley County Board of Education Monday night also will mean a reduction of about 35 to 40 students at Hedgesville Elementary School, providing room for growth at all three schools, Superintendent Manny P. Arvon said.

The new enrollment levels at Marlowe and Bedington will eliminate portable, trailer-like classroom facilities at the school campuses, making them more manageable, Arvon said. It also reduces the amount of time students will be on buses, according to school officials.

The new boundaries adopted effectively position Marlowe Elementary, which had an enrollment of 383 students in the fall of the current school year, at the center of its new district. There were 251 students attending Bedington Elementary, according to October 2010 enrollment figures reported to the West Virginia Department of Education.

Arvon told board members that letters were sent to families of about 300 students this month notifying them that they are in the new primary school district, and administrators received “very few” concerns.

“Matter of fact, there’s a lot of excitement about going into that new building,” Arvon said. When it opens in August, Spring Mills Primary will be the school district’s first “green” LEED-certified school.

About 35 students attending the intermediate and middle schools in the Hedgesville district this week also are expected to be notified of their inclusion in the Spring Mills district, but Arvon said administrators are allowing county transfers for families who want their child to stay put, Arvon said.

Aside from the new primary district, a new boundary will need to be drawn for the yet-to-be-built Spring Mills High School, and Arvon said some students might not go to the feeder, Spring Mills Middle School, before attending the county’s fourth high school.

“We’ll just have to see,” Arvon said in an interview after the board meeting. “That high school boundary is going to be a process that’s going to take a lot of consideration on how the school is opened.”

When asked where the new high school boundary would be drawn, Arvon joked that he was thinking about letting the football coaches decide.

Contractors’ construction bids for the new high school are expected to be opened on March 31, and Arvon told board members he hoped construction could begin May 1. That schedule would keep the project on track to open in August 2013, said Arvon, who presented schematic drawings for the new high school at a school board meeting Monday night.

Before the new primary school’s district was unanimously approved by the board, Arvon recounted “the journey”  that was taken to respond to growth in northern Berkeley County, beginning with the opening of Potomack Intermediate School in 1998 along Williamsport Pike (U.S. 11) and the purchase of land nearby for the three-school, Spring Mills educational campus.

In lauding the school board’s “vision” for the future by purchasing the Spring Mills property, Arvon said the district’s enrollment increase of more than 5,000 students in his 14 years as superintendent is larger than the total number of students enrolled in 41 county school districts in West Virginia.

The redistricting procedure used for the new primary school was the same as what was done when Spring Mills Middle School opened in 2004, and Hedgesville students were transferred, Arvon said.

In a presentation to the school board, school district Transportation Director Terry Forrest explained how the school district used bus-routing software to digitize the location of all students on a county map relative to the location of schools to draw the new district.

Forrest said the Edulog software saves “hours and hours” of work.

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