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Architect: Build ‘up the Creek’

Photo by Brandon Hicks

Tony Street makes a presentation for a school for grades 5
through 8 in Stoney Creek.

Just days after hearing an architect’s recommendation for a new school for grades 5 through 8 in the Hampton school district, the Carter County Board of Education was presented with another plan for a new grade 5-8 school, this time in the Unaka school district.
This suggested project came with the director of schools’ approval.
“This is a project, depending on the board’s vote, that I would like to see be phase 1 of our next projects,” Director of Schools Kevin Ward said. “Phase 2 could be another school with similar alignment in another district down the road.”
Architect Tony Street, with Beeson, Lusk and Street, presented the proposal for a 24-classroom school for 5th- through 8th-grade students in the Hunter, Keenburg and Unaka school district. The school would have space for 600 students and would have a gymnasium that would seat 1,400. There are currently 460 students in that zone who would attend the school.
Street said adding a school for 5th- through 8th-grade students would help meet several goals the Carter County School system had. The new school would help eliminate several portable classrooms, would add “equitable” school facilities in all districts and would be a step toward realigning the schools in each district by grade level, such as K-4, 5-8 and high school.
The site that has been considered for the school is in Hunter, across from the Elizabethton Municipal Airport and near the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Campus.
Ward said the location was unique because it already has a sewer system in place, along with natural gas and a 6-inch water pipe. Having those utilities nearby would reduce the cost for the system to develop the property.
Street guessed the school would cost around $16 million, not including the price of the property.
Board member Don Julian asked if adding this school meant another school would be closed. Ward said that would be a discussion for the school board if that time ever came.
“This is an exciting possibility,” Street said. “This sets in motion the option to continue more upgrades down the road in a logical manner.”
Street said other needs in that school area were a new kitchen and cafeteria at the least, and ideally a new gymnasium at Unaka Elementary. These upgrades are estimated to be around $3.5 million to $4 million.
Carter County Director of Finance Ingrid Deloach presented a preliminary look at the 2014-2015 budget for the schools. She said the system is still waiting for the numbers from the Basic Education Program funding and the money from the city/county split funding.
“Once those numbers come in, it will be easier to plan for the budget,” Deloach said. “These numbers could easily change once it is determined how the state budget goes and the city/county split.”
Deloach estimated the school will receive a $19,000 increase in BEP funding, and should include around $169,000 in salary increases for differentiated pay, retirement, degree change increases and experience increases.
She suggested the school system increase the full-time bookkeepers’ hours from seven each day to eight, which would be an increase of $30,500 systemwide. Deloach also suggested the system hire a part-time office assistant at an increase of $8,000 for Cloudland High School, where one employee acts as the secretary and the bookkeeper.
Predicted savings for the upcoming budget year included $30,000 for retirees’ insurance, $20,000 in mowing contracts, $21,000 in the vocational rehab program and $70,000 through the elimination of two system-wide para-professional positions.
The final early outlook left the system $185,500 in the hole after a projected $160,000 in extra revenue and savings with a projected $345,500 in extra expenditures.
“We aren’t really sure which way it will go right now,” Deloach said. “Those numbers could easily go down or they could go up.”
Secondary Supervisor Danny McClain presented additional calendar changes for the current school year and an early draft of the calendar for the 2014-2015 school year.
The new last day of school will be May 27, with an additional day for students in the Hampton district. McClain said the calendar had been revised again because additional days were missed for snow after the last changes. He said the graduations were still clear to happen on May 17-18.
For the 2014-2015 school year, the first day of school will likely be Aug. 11, with the last day falling on May 21. A 5-day spring break was included, which McClain noted would be the first to be cut if snow days were exceeded.