Central Elementary principal says school running out of room

Published 9:15 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye  Central Elementary School Principal Terry Morley, center, spoke to school officials and members of the Carter County Board of Education on Tuesday about space needs at his school.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Central Elementary School Principal Terry Morley, center, spoke to school officials and members of the Carter County Board of Education on Tuesday about space needs at his school.

At Central Elementary, space is not just something the students learn about in science class – it is also a hot commodity.

On Tuesday, during a workshop session, Central Elementary Principal Terry Morely spoke to members of the Carter County Board of Education about the need for additional classrooms at his school.

“When I first got there, on my first day there, we had 190 students,” Morely said. The school now has 280 students, Morely said, an increase that was the result of, in part, the closing of the old Range Elementary School.

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The school needs additional classroom facilities as well as an additional computer lab, Morely said.

At the start of the workshop session, Morely discussed preliminary drawings by an architect that would add six new classrooms onto the school.

If the project is approved, completion of the proposed renovations has been estimated to cost $1.5 million, Director of Schools Kevin Ward said.

“That is just an estimate right now, not a bid,” Ward said. “This has not been put out for a bid.”

Board member Ronnie McAmis said the school system will not only look at building onto the school, but at other options to relieve overcrowding as well. In recent years, McAmis said, the school system has discussed moving to an academic alignment of elementary schools serving grades kindergarten through fourth grade, grades 5-8 being placed in middle schools and high schools housing grades 9-12.

To keep in line with that goal, McAmis said the school system should look at possibly shifting the seventh and eighth grade classes from Central Elementary to Happy Valley Middle School if space allows. Then, over time, McAmis said, the system could also look at moving the sixth grade from Central there as well, to complete the alignment change.

Shifting those two grades away from Central would bring the school’s enrollment down to approximately 200, Morely said.

“That’s back around what it was when I first got here and we had sufficient space then,” Morely said, adding he would support whatever plan was best for the students and the school system.

Moving the seventh and eighth grades out of Central Elementary could also eliminate the use of modular classrooms at the school, Morely said.

“I wonder how many people in the Central Community don’t send their kids to school there because we shove the kids in those modulars the first couple of years of their school life,” board member Craig Davis asked. Several times during meetings and workshops in the past, Davis has voiced his concern over the system’s reliance on modular classrooms, saying the system needs to do away with the units and the practice.

In answer to Davis’ query, Morely said he knew of at least three cases where parents had told him they would not send their child to Central because of the modular classrooms.

Davis is a member of the new facilities and capital improvements committee formed by the school system. During Tuesday’s workshop, Davis said the committee should make visiting Central Elementary and Happy Valley Middle schools its first priority.

The committee meets for the first time next week, which Ward said will be an organizational meeting but the committee could discuss and set up trips at that time.

The board also heard a presentation by one of their own, board member LaDonna Boone, regarding district wide lesson planning.

Boone, who serves as a curriculum planner for the Johnson City school system, touted district wide planning as not only a time saver for teachers but as a way to streamline curriculum, improve test scores and improve classroom performance.

Many teachers currently spend as much as 12 to 14 hours each week on their own working on lesson plans, Boone said.

Instead of having all of the system’s teachers working on their own to create their lesson plans, Boone said district wide planning would allow all of the teachers in a particular grade to work together on those plans. By working together, those teachers who demonstrate a strength in lesson planning can help mentor those who need some assistance and help them become better at the process.

Boone gave the board a brief overview of the district planning method currently used by the Johnson City school system and suggested that something similar could be very beneficial for Carter County.

“I propose something that can help us work smarter instead of working harder,” she said. “Imagine the time that’s saved when we work together and our teachers can focus. I think it would be very helpful for our school system and our students.”