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Proposed site for new middle school sparks debate

by Darlene J. Taylor

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- The Harrison County Board of Education made no decision on a site recommendation for the new Salem/Gore middle school Monday evening after several people showed up to voice displeasure with the choice.

A diagram showing the site committee's preliminary choice of placing the new middle school adjacent to Liberty High School was unveiled by Superintendent Dr. Carl Friebel to a small crowd gathered at Robert C. Byrd High School.

The preliminary plan called for relocation of Liberty's baseball and softball fields from a 28.7-acre tract located behind the high school to a 33-acre tract adjacent to the current fields. Relocating the fields was a major concern to Liberty High supporters.

An emotional Pete Iquinto, Liberty's baseball coach, said he was surprised to first learn of the possibility about three weeks ago while working on the ball field.

"It's more than a baseball field," Iquinto said. "We're like a family."

The field complex includes a recently installed indoor batting facility, Iquinto said. That building alone cost $80,000, Iquinto said.

Iquinto said he was optimistic things would work out.

Larry Ritter, Liberty's assistant baseball coach and a retired teacher, said they are proud of their state-of-the-art athletic facility.

"It was built by parents and players. It is not just a piece of land," Ritter said. "We will stay with this until we are sure the field will stay where it's at."

Friebel said new fields would be constructed if the site was chosen for the new school.

"I want to assure the public that the new ball field would be equal to or better than the existing fields," said Friebel, citing lighting needs at the field.

Friebel said moving the ball fields was the best choice because it would require less excavation than any other site on the property, while also considering amenities including parking.

Friebel explained the committee worked diligently to select a site while considering property acquisition costs, site preparation costs and "the integrity of both schools."

The board already owns 39.17 acres at the site. Friebel said this selection would require purchasing 33 acres of land at a price not yet discussed with the current owner.

The site selection committee of school employees and community citizens worked with architect Rod Watkins of ZZM, Inc., to select one of nine initial properties.

The proposed site didn't have the support of some board members.

Board member Wilson Currey, former Liberty principal, said the fields "were built on the backs of (former baseball coach) Sam Annie and Pete Iquinto."

The crowd broke into applause when Currey vowed to work to keep the fields where they are.

Board President Sally Cann asked that board members be allowed to tour the site before any decision is made. Board members agreed that more information was needed by the board as well as the public.

Board members will accept comments and questions personally or in writing at the board office before a special meeting is scheduled on the new site recommendation.

A School Board Effectiveness meeting followed the regular session.

Due to a change in the Legislature, the state now requires each school representative to address performance, curriculum and progress in the local school improvement plan and unified county plan.

A representative of each county high school discussed specific ways to more adequately address the No Child Left Behind Act.

Statistics and data backed up goals and objectives of each Local School Improvement Council.

Staff writer Darlene J. Taylor can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at dtaylor@exponent-telegram.com.