Davis: Stoney Creek needs a new school

Published 9:46 am Friday, January 23, 2015

“We need a school on Stoney Creek.”
Carter County Board of Education member Craig Davis made an impassioned plea during the board’s meeting Thursday afternoon for a new middle school to be considered in Stoney Creek.
Davis said residents of Stoney Creek were becoming frustrated after having a new school in Stoney Creek discussed three times only to have the school not become a reality in the end.
The first time was in the late 1990s or early 2000s when around $1 million was set aside for a new school building. That money was used for renovations to Unaka High School instead.
The board talked about building the new Stoney Creek school again in 2007 and 2014.
“That is three times the people on Stoney Creek have been rebuffed,” Davis said. “The people of Stoney Creek are upset. We have had three schools talked about and very little happen.”
Davis said visits to the schools in Stoney Creek, including Keenburg Elementary, Hunter Elementary and Unaka Elementary, would show the new school is needed.
He said many school have modular units on the campus that were almost 50 years old. Other schools needed roof repairs and other upgrades. Davis said students at the schools with the modular units had to walk outside to get to other portions of the school, and that every students at UES had to go outside to reach the gymnasium.
Davis suggested the system remove all of the modulars at the three elementary schools and build a new middle school to house students in the Stoney Creek district in 6-8 grade. By moving the middle school students to a new school, it would lower the student populations at the elementaries and eliminate the need for the modular classrooms.
Davis said the system is paying substantially more for utilities in the modular units than in the main school buildings, which is an area of waste for the school system that is also a necessity.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “We need a school on Stoney Creek.”
He said the county owns three pieces of property in Stoney Creek that would all be suitable locations for a new school. He asked the board to pursue looking into what it would take to get the new school approved. He said by building the school now it would add 3-5 cents on the property tax rate instead of 20 cents in 10 years.
“I know the quality of a student’s education does not come from the building they are in,” Davis said. “This is a matter of safety. We have not had a lot of structural progress. We need a school now, not 10 years from now and not 20 years from now.”
Director of Schools Kevin Ward agreed that a new school was needed. He said the system needed to start the process of the study because it could be a lengthy process.
“Anyone could go to Hunter, Unaka and Keenburg and look at the modular units and agree that some kind of progress is needed,” Ward said.
Earlier this month, school leaders presented the County Commission with a proposal to use debt service money to pay off the loan for the UHS renovations and would speed up the payoff of the note for Cloudland High School.
The savings from those loans could then be used to for other project. The County Commission denied the school’s proposal.
Davis also stated the last time the Carter County School System received a large amount of money for a new school was in 1998 when the system got $6.8 million for a new Cloudland Elementary School after the former school was damaged in the flood of 1998.
The board gave approval for Maintenance Supervisor Phillip Webb to pursue bids on several projects for the system, including a possible future addition or modular for Central Elementary.
Central Principal Terry Morley said at least three new classrooms were needed; two for special education and one for 8th grade math. He said some of these classes were being held in a former storage space. By moving these classes the space would be freed up for a computer lab.
“A modular is not my preference, but we need the space,” Morley said.
Ward advised Webb to get estimates and bids on a modular, a four-classroom permanent expansion and a six-classroom permanent expansion for the school.
Other projects that were approved for bids were:
• light system replacements in school gymansiums.
• window replacements for Unaka Elementary.
• handicap accessibility upgrades to Cloudland High School’s football stadium.
• chemistry classroom upgrades.
“Get the bids and then we can pick and choose which ones we can do,” Board Member Kelly Crain said. “Come back with solid number and then we can see where we are.”
The school board also delayed a decision on approving a bid for ads on school buses.
Transportation Director Wayne Sams asked the board to reconsider the way the project had been bid. Under the current bid the advertising company District Solutions would control the ads that were placed on the systems 58 school buses. District Solutions was the only company to submit a bid. Their proposal had 55 percent of ad revenue from the buses going to the schools and 45 percent to their company.
Sams suggested two or three buses on the more rural routes be kept out to be used to advertise school system news, like the free lunch and breakfast program or the annual Child Find program.
Finance Director Ingrid Deloach said if the board decided to change the project the contract would have to be rebid and advised them to wait to approve the bid and contract until they decided on the ad placement.
The board set the 2015 graduation dates for May 15 for Cloudland and Hampton High Schools and May 16 for Unaka and Happy Valley High Schools.

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