8-21-13 Spring Mills High School debuts in Martinsburg

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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — In some West Virginia counties students are already back in the classroom and in others teachers are preparing to start the new school year. Berkeley County teachers went back to work and there’s a bit more excitement at the county’s newest high school, Spring Mills, which welcomed about 900 students on Aug. 19.

Berkeley County Schools Communications Director Elaine Bobo proudly shows off the 250,000 square foot building that smells brand new, including the library.

“But you’ll notice here in the window that’s not your totally traditional library,” she said. “You do still see books but what you’ll find will be high top desks that are kind of what they call boat shaped so multiple students can sit around them at one time, use their electronic devices.”

The technology extends well beyond the library. Principal Marc Arvon says it’s integrated throughout the school. There are Smart Boards in all the classrooms, eight portable and three stationary computer labs and Wi-Fi throughout the building.

“And it’s an exciting time because we do have 21st century learners,” Arvon said. “It’s no longer sitting in a straight line doing worksheets, these guys are engaged in technology so we have to do what we have to do to engage them and we feel like this is a fine tool to use.”

There are low tech tools also, like, teacher desks on wheels that can be rolled anywhere in the classroom and triangle shaped desks that can be pushed together so students can work in groups.

“So that’s what we’re encouraging, that’s what today’s job market requires,” Arvon said. “It requires our students to be able to interact with each other and to problem solve. “It’s not any longer about regurgitating dates out,” he added. “Today it’s about enabling students to be able to find the answers.”

Spring Mills High School has an auditorium with state of the art lighting and sound that seats 750, a small TV studio, 14 science labs, a school store adjacent to the business education classroom and a health center that looks like a tiny emergency room.

Two walls in the dance classroom are covered with mirrors and a ballet bar, the cafeteria offers traditional seating plus several high top tables and chairs and the library has a few couches and lounge chairs to encourage students to spend time there studying and reading.

Tonya Fleming is the library media specialist. It’s her first year working in a high school.

“It’s bigger than what I’m used to, probably three times bigger than my last primary library media center,” Fleming said. “When I look around the room I see books that I’d want to read and investigate when I was in high school”

Fleming said there’s a lot of room for growth and she looks forward to building the collection. In addition to the printed books lining the library shelves there are 2,000 electronic books that will be available to students.

Fleming was one of the school’s 104 employees who returned to work to get Spring Mills ready for students.

“My first impression, probably like a lot of people, is they keep referring it as Christmas,” Wayne Bennett, ninth grade science teacher and cross country coach, said. “I kind of feel like it’s the night before, it’s Christmas Eve, and we’re finally starting to get in our classrooms and getting things unpacked and stuff, it’s just a real exciting time.”

“I’m very excited to get the school year started, to make our own memories and create our own culture here at Spring Mills High School,” Mark Salfia, U.S. history teacher and head baseball coach, said. “Everything that we do here will be the first time it’s done, the first pep rally, the first assembly, the first football game, the first school dance, so we have a chance to put our stamp, our own little twist on everything that happens here.”

“The memories we make this year will last 25, 50, 75 years from now,” Salfia said. “The kids in the building this first year will be bringing their kids and grandkids back here to show them pictures on the wall and I think that’s very exciting.”

“It’s quite a humbling experience to know that this is ours now,” Joel Silver, physical education teacher and boys’ basketball coach, said. “It’s great to know that the citizens of Berkeley County have come together and built such a great facility for our students to learn in and for our athletes to participate in.”

Berkeley County now has four high schools that will compete in AAA level sports. Spring Mills will not have a senior class this year to give rising seniors at Martinsburg and Hedgesville a chance to graduate from the school’s they’ve been attending.

Spring Mills will eventually accommodate up to 1,500 students, and will relieve overcrowding at the other two schools.

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