Berkeley Co. Schools had a 'great opening'

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon II says schools welcomed 18,000 students

August 22, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • First-grader Samuel Stotler makes a dash for it Monday at Marlowe Elementary School. Monday was first day of the new school year for Berkeley County Schools. Schools also opened in Jefferson and Morgan counties in the Eastern Panhandle.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — New classrooms opened Monday at three schools in Berkeley County for the first day of the 2011-12 school year.

"It's been a great opening (day)," Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon II said. "All students were delivered home safely."

Arvon estimated that teachers and staff at the district's 30 schools welcomed roughly 18,000 students Monday.

Five schools have new principals: Holly Kleppner (Musselman High School), Ron Lyons (Hedgesville High School), Virginia "Jena" Hinchman (Bunker Hill Elementary School), Scott Albright (Orchard View Intermediate School) and Amanda Stevens (Marlowe Elementary School).

Stevens replaced Sharon Rogers, who was tapped to be the first principal of new Spring Mills Primary, the county's first "green" school.

"They were showing me a few things," Stevens said in an interview after her first day at the helm.

Stevens, formerly an assistant principal at Potomack Intermediate School, said she couldn't have asked for a better opening, crediting the school's supportive staff for helping make the day a success.

Students participated in a scavenger hunt and Stevens said she found herself chuckling a bit as the youngsters looked for a monkey.

"They were having a ball," Stevens said.

In Morgan County, Lance Fox was tapped as the next principal of Berkeley Springs High School after serving as an assistant principal there, according to Morgan County Schools Superintendent David Banks. Fox replaced George Ward, who retired, Banks said.

"It's been a fantastic start," Banks said of the return of about 2,700 students to the close-knit school district's eight schools.

"It's kind of like welcoming the family back," Banks said.

Banks said enrollment in Morgan County has seen decreases of 30 to 50 students in the last few years, a decline he attributed at least in part to the economic downturn.

While enrollment growth has slowed in Berkeley County, Arvon said he expects enrollment increases to continue given economic developments such as the Macy's distribution center project.

An enrollment increase limited to 100 students per year, however, would be cause for "celebration," said Arvon, referring to a series of substantially large enrollment increases in the previous decade.

While slower enrollment growth helps with planning and staffing, the economic downturn also has helped reduce the number of vacancies that need to be filled, according to Arvon.

As of Monday, the school district had hired 87 new teachers and another 30 or so positions were being filled with permanent substitutes, Arvon said.

"We think the pool of teachers that we hired from this year was outstanding," Arvon said.

Layoffs in surrounding states helped make the county's jobs very attractive, Arvon said. Berkeley County Schools employs more than 1,400 teachers, according to Arvon. Combined with personnel and part-time staff, there are about 3,400 people on the school district's payroll, Arvon said.

Aside from the new primary school in northern Berkeley County, new classrooms were opened in 30,000-square-foot additions at both Martinsburg North Middle School and Musselman High School, Arvon said.

The 20 classrooms in the two-story addition at Musselman have been turned into a "center" for ninth-grade students, Arvon said.

The opening of the addition at North Middle represents the completion of the first part of an expansion-renovation project, according to Arvon.

Portable classrooms remain at the Martinsburg North Middle School campus so students this spring can be moved out of the original school building while it is being renovated, according to Arvon.

Gail Woods, spokeswoman for Jefferson County Schools, said Monday that classes there begin Wednesday with about 8,800 students, about the same number as those who walked in at the start of the 2010-11 school year.

There will be about 20 new teachers spread around the county, but no new schools will open this fall. The new Blue Ridge Primary School is expected to open in the spring semester as will the new classrooms being added to Harpers Ferry Middle School, she said.

— Staff writer Richard F. Belisle contributed to this story.

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