Director of Carter County Schools Kevin Ward, right, makes his case for a new middle school during a meeting of the Elizabethton Kiwanis Club Tuesday afternoon. (John Thompson/Johnson City Press)
ELIZABETHTON - Carter County Director of Schools Kevin Ward has been working hard in the past few weeks to win funding for a new middle school adjacent to the Watauga Industrial Park in Stoney Creek.
After winning over the school board last month, Ward
has found it more difficult to win support for the idea in the Budget Committee of the Carter County Commission
had strong support on the committee from Steve Chambers and Lawrence Hodge, but they were not able to get the committee to approve the 15 cents it would take to obtain bonds for a $15 million school and provide equivalent funding for city schools under the average daily membership calculations.
said such architectural work will take until March, so the ultimate decision on building the school will be made by the newly elected Carter County Commission
Two-thirds of the commissioners on that body will be newly elected, so it is not known what the stance of the members will be towards raising taxes to fund a new school.
Following the Budget Committee's refusal to approve the 15-cent tax increase for the new school last week, Ward
has taken his
campaign to the people.
held a public meeting in the cafeteria of Hunter Elementary School
on Monday evening and spoke to the Elizabethton Kiwanis Club
on Tuesday to discuss the proposed school as well as other school initiatives for the coming school year.
told the citizens that the perfect location for the new school has been found and has already been purchased using school funds.
said the lot is small at 7.2 acres, but the fact it is going to be a two-story building designed for 600 students, the lot should be more than sufficient.
said the fact the school is at the end of the city sewer line servicing the industrial park means the school will save $700,000 by not having to build a septic system and it will also free up two acres that would have been necessary for such a system.
Other positive factors for the school is it is on a natural gas line and a 6-inch water line for a fire-suppression system.
Another plus is the school is on a four-lane highway.
The new school would solve several problems in the Stoney Creek area, Ward
One of those problems it would solve is the elimination of 23 of the 48 modular units being used by the school system.
said some of these are over 50 years old and have had two or three floors rebuilt in them.
Another solved problem would be an adequate basketball gymnasium for Unaka High School
The plans call for the gym for the new school to be built to high school regulations and with seats for 1,400 fans.
That would give the high school teams the opportunity to host post season tournaments.
said the school would also enable the duplication of the elementary-middle-high school model that has been proven successful in Happy Valley.
The new middle school would take students in grades 5-8 from Keenburg, Hunter
Another factor that makes the funding of the school attractive at this time, Ward
said, is that the payoff on the Cloudland Elementary School bonds was made in May.
hoped the 12 cents that was needed to make those payments will be rededicated to building another school.
Once that school is paid off, Ward
hoped a future County Commission would then build a middle school in Hampton to duplicate the successful model once again.