Modular classrooms help county with space crunch

By Megan R. Harrell

   The new Cloudland Elementary school has freed up much needed classroom space in Carter County. Later this month, two of the three modular classrooms that students vacated at Cloudland will be moved to Range and Hampton elementary schools. Both locations have been cited as needing extra classrooms in order to decrease student to teacher ratios.
   The Education Improvement Act, issued last year, regulates the number of students per teacher. The EIA limits lower grades to 20 students per classroom, and 30 students per classroom in grades 7-8. The county has been preparing for the changes for a few years but this year is the first schools have been held to the figures set forth by the EIA.
   The modular units at Cloudland offer some breathing room to county school board members as they attempt to meet the growing need for classrooms. "The new school at Cloudland Elementary created a good opportunity to free up modulars and we are now able to look at the overall picture and place them where they are needed most," said Kevin Ward, Carter County Supervisor of Grounds and Safety.
   Although the county is currently within state guidelines, it is continually looking for ways to keep the potential problem at bay. In the past three years the county has dealt with its new found space crunch by adding new classrooms to all ready existing schools. Eight new classrooms were added to Happy Valley Middle School, six at Hunter Elementary, six at Central Elementary and two at Valley Forge Elementary.
   At Hampton Elementary a special education class and another class share a single room separated by a dividing wall. "Situations like this are not conducive to good learning environments," Ward said.
   The modular units that Range and Hampton schools will receive each contain two regular size classrooms. Principal Hickman at Hampton Elementary stated that she will wait until the units are actually erected at her school before she makes a decision as to which classes will be moved.
   The county is still looking at where to place the third modular unit. A number of different county schools are vying for the remaining unit. Ward stated that he will look at all of the schools and make a referral to the school board based on need.
   The cost of moving modulars has skyrocketed the past few years. Carter County is now accepting bids from companies to move the modular classrooms. The units have to be broken down at Cloudland, shipped to the new sites, and then re-erected.