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CURRENT STORIES


Barbour may get new high school

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

Students in Barbour County could be attending a new Philip Barbour High School in a few years if a $7.5 million school bond passes in Saturday's election.

The bond money would be added to state School Board Authority funds of $7 million to replace the county's lone high school, which was built in the 1960s.

"This is the oldest school building in the county, and it's no longer adequate for our students. The passage of the bond would allow us to take advantage of the SBA funds to build a state-of-the-art facility," said John Hager, superintendent of Barbour County schools.

An attempt to pass an earlier bond in 1998 to renovate the current high school failed. During public meetings held following the bond's failure, county residents indicated they would rather have a new high school instead of fixing up the old one, Hager said.

Following the meetings, the county school board went back to the School Building Authority with plans for a new facility. The authority offered $7 million for the project, contingent on the board's getting a bond for the remainder of the money passed by July 1.

"I'm guardedly optimistic at this time because I think this plan has more support than the last time. The project makes sense to people and it's a good deal financially," Hager said.

A grassroots organization supporting the bond, Barbour Citizens for Quality Education, will hold a meeting on Monday at 6 p.m. at Belington Middle School to help answer any questions voters may have about the bond.

"We think it's important to get the correct information out to the public so they can make an informed decision," said Kenny Wilmoth, treasurer of the group.

According to research done by the group, if the bond passes, a resident with a home appraised at $40,000 would pay about $5 more per month in taxes over the 10.5 years of the bond.

For homeowners with a Homestead Exemption and whose homes are appraised at less than $35,000, there would be no additional cost, Wilmoth said.

"I think people are pretty positive and they want a new school for our children. Any negative reports we have heard are often from people who are misinformed about what the bond would do," Wilmoth said.

If the bond passes, the new high school would be built adjacent to the present high school, located along U.S. Route 250, about four miles south of Philippi. The new building would be located closer to the vocational center, which would minimize the distance students would have to walk to the center.

Glenn Sweet, assistant principal at Philip Barbour, said that state mandates over the years have made the current high school nearly obsolete.

"A number of our classrooms are smaller than what they should be, according to the School Building Authority, especially our science and computer labs," Sweet said.

Also, the expansion of technology has created problems for the older building, Sweet said.

"The electrical system that was installed in this building in the 1960s doesn't come close to handling the demands that we have today. A new building could address those needs," he said.

The new facility would have an auditorium, which the current high school does not have, a sound-proof band room, and would have an auxiliary gym, something necessary due to changes in sports programs over the years, Sweet said.

"With the increase in women's athletics, there is greater demand for our gym space. We currently support seven teams during the winter, including six basketball teams and a wrestling team, along with the cheerleading squad, so it's a real challenge to give everyone time," he said.

Deborah Talbott, Barbour County clerk, said she expects a good voter turnout for the Saturday election.

"I think the word is really out and students have gone door-to-door to let people know about the election. I hope we will see at least a 60 percent turnout," she said.

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