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Harpers Ferry Middle School to expand

October 24, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Students, school and state and local officials grabbed shovels Wednesday morning and threw a little dirt to signify the start of construction for a $13 million expansion of Harpers Ferry Middle School.
By Richard F. Belisle, Staff Writer

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. — Students, school and state and local officials grabbed shovels Wednesday morning and threw a little dirt to signify the start of construction for a $13 million expansion of Harpers Ferry Middle School.

When the new addition opens in the fall of 2014 it will mean Jefferson County Schools will close the last 15 of the more than 100 portable classrooms it had been using for decades to keep up with a student population that grew by 10 percent a year until the economic downturn hit.

Schools Superintendent Susan K. Wall said about 40 percent of Harpers Ferry Middle School students attended classes in the trailers lined up behind the school at 1710 W. Washington St.

“This is the last major project. We’re not buying another trailer,” Jefferson County Board of Education President Peter Dougherty said before the ceremony. “They’re expensive to buy and maintain and when we no longer need them. They aren’t worth anything.”

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The school board launched its ambitious school construction program beginning with the new Washington High School. Following that came Driswood Elementary School, the 11-room addition to South Jefferson Elementary and the new Blue Ridge Primary School.

The Harpers Ferry Middle School addition will add 22 new classrooms and a new cafeteria. The contract calls for the renovation of the gym. Wall said it will provide a safer, healthier and better learning environment for the students and staff.

Sixth-graders transfer to Harpers Ferry Middle from C.W. Shipley and Blue Ridge elementary schools.

Wall told of a special “culture and relationship” between the school, community, parents and alumni and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which partners with the school.

Joseph Spurgas, middle school principal, said the staff and students are prepared to deal with the complicated construction process and the interruptions it will cause. The community, mayors of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar, the National Park and alumni want the school to remain where it’s been for nearly 100 years, “rather than in a field three miles away,” Spurgas said.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Nick Boria, president of the school’s student government, said in remarks to the audience.

Paul Ranalli and Dixie Wiltshire were among residents who attended the ceremony. Both were 1949 graduates of the school when it was Harpers Ferry High School. Ranalli said the school’s alumni association has raised about $170,000 in scholarships since 1972. “This year alone, we raised $17,500,” he said.

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