School officials say overall, county schools in 'real good shape'

By Greg Miller

STAR STAFF

   Overall, the Carter County School System's buildings are "in real good shape," according to Kevin Ward, the system's elementary supervisor and safety director who is also in charge of maintenance and facilities.
   Extensive repairs have been made at Unaka Elementary School over the last three or four years, according to Ward. "Unaka Elementary has been given an inside facelift, with the exception of the gym," he said.
   "Range Elementary is still functional. It has a new roof and the inside has been freshly painted and is in pretty good shape.
   "This past summer, we completed two major roof jobs, one at Cloudland High School, which was an entire roofing of the main building. We just completed a roof repair at Valley Forge. It was an emergency repair. It had to be fixed. We also completed the roofing of the gym cafeteria at Range Elementary. We have a couple of areas of concern in our roofing. They're not real large areas.
   "We've got a roof at Cloudland High School Vocational that's going to need to be addressed within the next year. It's getting to the point it's going to have to be reworked completely. Also, we have a section of roof at Central Elementary. It's a section of roof that hasn't been tended to in some time.
   "We're looking at the possibility of maybe doing some work with modulars. We have several modulars throughout the county.
   "Dr. Ellis wrote a grant and has applied for monies through the state of Tennessee. We're hoping that the grant comes through, because it's a substantial amount of money (about $900,000) that we could take in and renovate some of the modulars and do some more renovation work to some of our buildings in the county. At this time, I don't think she's been notified whether she has received the grant or any of the monies that might be divided out in that grant. We're really keeping our fingers crossed that something may come through on that grant."
   Monies could also be available from capital outlay, "if we have to do any emergency roofing or anything of that nature," Ward said. "That, of course, is a decision that would be made by Mr. Williams (County School System Director Dallas Williams) and the board to do."
   "Right now, we have three projects that have been approved by the board of education, and we've actually broken ground on all three of them," said Pat Hicks, Assistant Director of Schools and Personnel Director of Carter County Schools. "We have already broken ground for a gym at Happy Valley Elementary. The board has approved a bandroom for Hampton High School and also a bandroom for Cloudland High School. We're paying for that out of capital outlay money and school system reserves."
   Modular classrooms will be moved from Cloudland Elementary to Range Elementary and Hampton Elementary (one each). Hunter Elementary and Central Elementary each added six new classrooms over the past three years, when Valley Forge Elementary added two classrooms and Happy Valley Middle added eight new classrooms. Unaka High School also added a new bandroom. "We also put in some additional bathrooms at Unaka Elementary School," Hicks said.
   "The last building project was primarily paid for through a $12 million bond issue through the county. We received 73 percent of that, and the city received 27 percent. We did use some general purpose school money. The total cost on the Cloudland project was $6.8 million. We used approximately $200,000 that came from the sale of the old Gap Creek School and the property out there. We used approximately $545,000 out of general fund over the course of five years.
   "We usually do replacements, renovations and new buildings through bond issues that are approved through the county commission," Hicks said. "We do have some capital outlay money in our budget, which is also used for renovations and things of that nature. We might enter into an energy saving agreement with Johnson Controls, whereby Johnson would make some of the renovations to the system, but that is just something in the study stages right now."
   Ward said the Carter County Work Camp crews provide a much-needed service to the school system. In November and December, two work crews (totaling 16 men) from the facility worked hard at the new Cloudland Elementary to "put all the furniture together, moved all the furniture up into the classrooms, and discarded all the cardboard," Ward said.
   "The work camp and what they've done for Carter County Schools in the last five or six summers has been very valuable. We really appreciate all that Sgt. Wiggin, his supervisors and the inmates do for us."