School board sends improvements package to commission

Photo by Dave Boyd
They've graduated high school already, but Carter County School Board members are still learning. Students from Janet Hinkleƕs social studies class at Happy Valley Middle School shared their knowledge about Chinese culture by demonstrating the art of origami to the board Thursday.

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff
After months of discussing an improvements package and years of thinking about what items in the school system need improvement, Carter County School Board members unanimously approved Thursday sending a renovations package to the Carter County Commission.
Included will be improvements to Unaka Middle School and the Unaka High School gymnasium. Members also want to move the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades back to Valley Forge Elementary School. For years, these grades have attended school at Siam and in Hampton.
Valley Forge residents have long awaited the return of the three grades to Valley Forge Elementary, according to member Steve Chambers.
Cloudland Elementary and Cloudland High School will also receive facelifts if the total package is approved by the commission. Despite being built after the flood of 1998, the elementary school is overcrowded and members would like to add the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades back to this school also.
Director of Schools Dallas Williams said the board is not sure of the cost for the total package. The board will consult with contractors and architects to determine the cost in compared to other school systems that made similar changes.
Board member Gebe Ritchie said the Stoney Creek area has been waiting for years for a solution to the problems at Unaka Middle School. "It has been a long time coming. I will be happy to make the motion for this total package."
Williams said the package will not be considered at the February commission meeting, but will be added to the agenda before the April meeting, when the budget discussions begin.
In other business, Williams endorsed the sales tax referendum. If the sales tax is approved, Carter County schools could receive nearly $500,000 in additional revenue.
Chairman Daniel Holder added, "If we don't capture it the state will probably take it for their budget. If we pass it, this half percent will stay in Carter County and Elizabethton."
Social Studies teacher Janet Hinkle brought three students from Happy Valley Middle School, Nick, Tennessee, and Porschea (last names unavailable) to make a presentation to the board about what they learned from an exchange student from China, On Yi. The students passed out origami birds, explained an art project with the complex writing style of the Chinese symbols, and passed out booklets written in Chinese.