Report: BHS has high dropout rate
by Gail Marsh
STAFF WRITER

    Bridgeport High School has the highest dropout rate in Harrison County and makes up one of three county schools with a dropout rate higher than the West Virginia average, according to a state report.
But the principal of the high school says the report card is misleading.
    "We don't believe our dropout numbers are typically higher than any other school in the area. It has a lot to do with the way the figures are calculated," said BHS Principal Lindy Bennett.
    Overall, schools in Harrison County have a student dropout rate lower than the state average, according to the recently released West Virginia Report Cards, compiled by the state Department of Education. The cards list state, county and individual school data for the 1997-98 school year.
    The report sets the overall dropout rate for all state students in seventh through 12th grades at 2.9 percent.
In Harrison County, the report lists the overall dropout rate at 2.1 percent, which includes the county's five middle schools and five high schools. On an individual basis, Bridgeport High School shows the highest dropout rate at 4.0 percent, followed by Robert C. Byrd High School at 3.2 percent, Lincoln High School at 3.0 percent, Liberty High School at 2.7 percent and South Harrison High School at 1.5 percent.
Bennett said the averages can be misleading. The school had 844 students enrolled last year, with the number of dropouts at 35.
    "Some of the students listed as dropouts have actually transferred to another school in the county. And we have at least four students on that list that each dropped out a couple of times in the same year," he said.
    Bennett said four others on the list have re-enrolled, while two have moved out of state and have not yet sent for their transcripts.
    After checking individual names, Bennett said he counted 26 possible dropouts last year, which would bring the school average to about 3.0 percent, just a bit over the state average of 2.9 percent.
    Bennett said Bridgeport High School has a school-based assistance team that evaluates those students referred to them who may be having academic problems. The team works to find ways to help the students in any area of difficulty they may be having.
    Bennett said the only students that fail are the ones that don't show up and don't show enough interest to ask for any help.
"The teachers here are very receptive to offering help. If students want to learn, they can be successful here," he said.
    In other area counties, dropout rates are also lower than state average, with Lewis County at 1.9 percent, Taylor County at 2.3 percent, Barbour County at 2.3 percent and Doddridge at 2.5 percent. Upshur County's overall dropout rate stood at 3.0 percent.
    Percentages are based on the number of students who left public school, for any reason except death, before graduation or without transferring to another school. Percentages are calculated by the number of dropouts divided by the first month's enrollment. The state rate is up from 2.8 percent last year.



Bridgeport company plans to expand
by Troy Graham
STAFF WRITER

    Extolling the virtues of West Virginia's workforce, Pratt & Whitney officials announced a $7 million expansion Monday that will create 30 jobs at the aerospace company's Bridgeport site.
    The Bridgeport plant, which employs 350 people, will add a new "test cell," which is used to test engines by simulating flight conditions. Two existing cells will also be renovated. The new cells will enable the Bridgeport facility to test larger and more powerful engines.
    By increasing the testing capabilities at the Bridgeport site, Pratt & Whitney will be able to ensure its presence here, officials said.
    "Basically, this project is to secure what we already have in West Virginia," said Denis Parisien, the plant's general manager.
    During a ceremony Monday, several speakers said the Bridgeport site was selected because of the quality of West Virginia's workforce and the willingness of government officials to work with the company.
    The workers here are "qualified, skilled, motivated people," said Gilles Ouimet, the president and chief operating officer of Pratt & Whitney Canada.
    In addition, the state Legislature passed a bill Friday that will give tax breaks to expanding aerospace companies. Pratt & Whitney will be able to utilize the tax breaks with this expansion. Gov. Cecil Underwood, who attended Monday's ceremony, said he will sign the bill.
    The Bridgeport plant is Pratt & Whitney's Corporate Center of Excellence, which means the plant works largely on corporate or business aircraft.
    Those planes are increasingly using the more powerful engines that the new cells are being equipped to test.
Construction on the new cell should be completed by November, and renovations to the existing cells should be finished next month, Parisien said.
    Pratt & Whitney's expansion goes hand in hand with the expansion of Benedum Airport's runway, which is expected to be completed this fall, said Richard Smith, the executive vice president of Executive Jet Aviation.
    Smith said he looks forward to the day when he can land large aircraft at Benedum, turn them over to Pratt & Whitney and have them overhauled in a day and a half.
    "As long as Pratt & Whitney continues its promise, I promise to bring business to Clarksburg, W.Va.," he said.
Ouimet said the company is well positioned in West Virginia. When the extended runway at Benedum is completed, 140 acres of flat, developable land will be created. Further expansion on that land is a possibility, said Ouimet.
    "It's a good bet that the requirements for added capacity will not be too far down the road," he said.



Old Man winter dumps more snow on North Central West Virginia
by Jim Fisher
STAFF WRITER

    The second snow storm in less than a week in North Central West Virginia is expected to dump up to eight inches of the white stuff throughout the area through tomorrow.
    The National Weather Service has continued the winter storm warning through today, according to Chris Leonardi, meteorologist with the service in Charleston.
    Snow began shortly after 3 a.m. and about three inches had accumulated by 8 a.m. today. The snow is expected to slack slightly about 11 a.m., but continue falling the rest of the day.
    More snow is expected tomorrow as the storm system continues to move through the area, Leonardi said. Also, a second storm system is expected to hit the area Thursday, but Leonardi said it is too early to tell if it will be snow or rain.
"We knew it was coming but weren't sure until the last 24 hours that so much snow was involved," Mark Bloomer, a National Weather Service meteorologist said Monday. What makes things look even worse, Bloomer said, is that temperatures will vary.
    Temperatures are expected to rise from the 20s to the low 30s this morning. That could cause some of the snow to turn to rain and drizzle.
    Temperatures will lower back into the 20s this afternoon and turn sloppy roads into icy roads, Bloomer said.
The snow, on top of minimal rain that fell beforehand, created treacherous driving for the North Central West Virginia region.
    At least four vehicle accidents were reported in Harrison County since the snow began to fall, but all were minor and no injuries were reported, according to a dispatcher.  No other counties had any reported accidents this morning.
    The West Virginia Division of Highways has all road crews out clearing and treating the roads, according to Dick Davis, engineer. He said crews have been out since the snow started and the primaries are in pretty good shape.
Many school systems in the region did not wait on heavy accumulations, however. Most counties in the area canceled school before 5 a.m.
    West Virginia University, Fairmont State College, Glenville State College, the West Virginia Business College and Northern West Virginia Community College will not hold classes.



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