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Berkeley County's long-awaited fourth high school nearly ready

Superintendent says construction of Spring Mills High should be completed by June 1; school will be dedicated Aug. 7.

March 20, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Spring Mills High School is set to be dedicated Aug. 7. It will be Berkeley County's fourth public high school.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

SPRING MILLS, W.Va. — Spring Mills High School is set to be dedicated Aug. 7, but Berkeley County’s fourth public high school is expected to be finished well before then, Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon said Tuesday while giving a tour of the school.

Hallway clocks displayed the correct time during the tour, basketball backboards were installed in the main gymnasium and cafeteria equipment in the kitchen appeared practically ready for food service.

The cafeteria and every other room visited Tuesday had yet to be furnished, but Arvon said all of the remaining work is expected to be finished by June 1, if not sooner.

More pressing is the completion of the high school’s football field, which isn’t expected to be done until mid-July, according to Arvon. High school football practice in West Virginia begins in the first full week of August.

“I don’t want them to have to wait,” Arvon said.

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Concession stands and the facilities building has been built, but the turf field, seating and other stadium work is not yet done.

The school’s football team will be comprised of underclassmen this fall, Arvon said. The school will open with only ninth-, 10th- and 11th-grade students. School officials opted to phase in redistricting to allow would-be seniors to graduate next year from their current school. 

Arvon said more than 100 students turned out for the first meeting of Spring Mills’ fledgling football program. The cardinal, which is the state bird, is the school’s mascot.

The majority of the students at the new school would have attended Hedgesville High School, while the remainder would have attended Martinsburg High.

When completed, the football stadium will take away a small portion of the county’s Dupont Soccer Complex, but Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board Executive Director Steve Catlett told board members Tuesday the impact would be minimal and the easement to allow for the school’s facility is worth it.

The high school stadium’s track and tennis courts to be built for the school’s teams, will be open to the public, Catlett said.

“The trade off is really a good thing” given the lack of existing public recreation areas in northern Berkeley County other than the soccer complex, Catlett said.

Built for 1,500 students, the high school initially was estimated to cost $53 million, but competitive bidding among contractors for the project amid the economic downturn helped save about $8 million, according to Arvon.

“The pricing on this building was just absolutely amazing,” Arvon said.

The 250,000-square-foot building, the largest ever built in West Virginia through the state School Building Authority’s oversight, completes a vision the community had back in the 1990s, Arvon said.

The high school is next to the Spring Mills Primary School, which opened in 2011 next to Spring Mills Middle School at the school district’s educational campus off U.S. 11 and W.Va. 901. The middle school opened in 2004.

The cafeteria will be able to seat 750 students.

“Hopefully, it will be a while before they need three lunches (here),” Arvon said.

The high school includes “bits and pieces” of features that were incorporated in previous school construction projects, Arvon said. The school district has built more than 1 million square feet of instructional space to try to keep up with student enrollment growth in Arvon’s 16 years as superintendent. In that time, enrollment has grown by about 6,100 students and the school system still has about 100 portable classrooms, Arvon said.

The new high school’s green features include an HVAC system, motion-activated lighting and acoustical panels that absorb hallway sounds, such as locker doors opening and closing, and natural lighting, Arvon said.

Furnishings include boomerang-shaped desks chosen to encourage collaborative learning and teachers’ desks with wheels to allow them to move around the room, Arvon said.

Areas in the media center will be outfitted with boat-shaped tables that will allow for interactive learning with iPads, according to Arvon.

The superintendent said he is particularly proud of the fine arts side of the building, noting a school is often judged by those programs. 

The architectural style of the building, its red brick and use of white columns, inside and out, is meant to serve as a “bridge” to the community’s rich history, Arvon said.

“What’s amazing is the community support we’ve had here,” Arvon said of voter-approved bond issues for the high school project and past construction needs.

County taxpayers have contributed about $140 million toward school construction in Arvon’s tenure through bond issues. The local support has been matched by about $100 million in state school building authority funding, Arvon said.

“Voters have trusted us with their money and you have to perform,” said Arvon, who lauded the efforts of Don Zepp, the school district’s construction manager and others involved with construction of the high school.

“It’s all about the team,” Arvon said of the project’s success.

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