New Carter County committee takes hard look at schools’ needs

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Members of a new committee set up to review the needs of the county’s school facilities got an education Tuesday night during the group’s first meeting.

The Carter County Schools Facility and Capital Improvement Planning Committee is comprised of Carter County Board Education members Rusty Barnett, Craig Davis and Tony Garland; County Commissioners Danny Ward and Mike Hill who both serve on the education committee; County Commissioners Ross Garland and John Lewis, who serve on the budget committee; Director of Schools Kevin Ward and Phillip Nave, the school system’s maintenance supervisor. Davis serves as chairman of the committee.

“This will be a monumental undertaking, I’m sure,” Davis said.

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The committee has been tasked with evaluating all of the county’s current school facilities, prioritizing the facility needs and developing a long-range plan for addressing those needs.

“We will make every effort to differentiate the wants from the needs,” Davis said, adding that the focus will be, first and foremost, on immediate needs.

As an orientation for the new committee members, Nave gave a presentation on all of the system’s 14 schools, including information about when they were built, what additions had been made, the number of modular classrooms at each location, the number of students in each school, the condition of the building, the land acreage of the site and what the known needs of the facilities were.

Modular classrooms have long been used by the school system as a way to address overcrowding without having to build new schools or additions. There are currently 46 modular units which hold 58 classes in use within the system.

While the modular units have a life span of about 10 years, Ward said the majority of those in use by the school system have been in use for much longer; some have been in place at county schools since the mid-1970s.

The modular units may present a less expensive way to create more classrooms, but Nave said the school system pays significantly more to maintain the modular units than for a traditional classroom. The units need repairs more frequently than a brick and mortar classroom, and are much less energy efficient Nave said.

One of the goals of the committee is to develop a plan that would eventually eliminate these units, Davis said.

“I don’t have a hidden agenda. I don’t hide it,” he said. “My goal is to do my dad-burned best to eliminate every portable unit we’ve got.”

Continuing to use the modulars is a waste of taxpayer money because of the increased maintenance and energy expenses, Davis said.

During Nave’s presentation, several committee members asked questions about the schools and commented on how facilities’ needs had been addressed in the past.

“We need to get out of this pod business for the county,” Ward said. “We are putting bandaids on stuff and we need to get out of that mindset.”

Beginning on March 31, members of the committee will begin touring county schools to see first hand the needs throughout the system.