City schools move ahead after state funding restored

By Julie Fann
star staff

Elizabethton City Schools Superintendent Judy Blevins said Monday she is relieved the 2002-2003 state budget has been approved so that the school system can move ahead. City schools confronted a $1.2 million cut in state funding if the Legislature decided to implement the DOGs budget last week.
   "I received an e-mail from Faye Taylor, Commissioner of Education, letting us know that the BEP and contracts have been fully funded. I had several interviewees on hold. I'll be able to let them know they have a position now," Blevins said.
   The city will be hiring teachers to fill nine positions left vacant due to retirement or transfers. The sales tax increase approved by the Legislature last week guarantees a two percent raise for teachers in K-12 education and restoration of the BEP, or Base Educational Pay.
   Last month, the school board approved an amended budget to ensure approximately 62 city schools personnel will continue to receive family health insurance coverage. Due to increased insurance premiums and the state's budget delays, the board had to pull from already tight accounts to balance the budget.
   "We have proceeded as though everything was going to come through from the state because we had no other option," Blevins said. "Regardless, as a school system we moved ahead on various projects and accomplished a lot with only a little bit of money."
   Blevins said several projects began as soon as the school year ended. Remodeling the swimming pool at Elizabethton High School has been a major one. Workers are currently putting in a new fiberglass bottom in the pool, and the inside of it has been painted.
   The new pool will also have remodeled restrooms and shower rooms. Blevins said an open house will be held just before the beginning of the new school year. "It will give us an opportunity to invite the public in to see what we've done," she said.
   Richard Hodge, maintenance director for the school system, said the vocational area at the high school is also being remodeled. "We're taking one room and making two out of it and putting new heat and air in those areas," he said.
   Twelve prisoners from the Carter County Work Camp are helping the school system by replacing roofs on both concession stands at the football stadium. They are also building an additional small structure for the Athletic Parents Association where memorabilia will be sold.
   Within the next week, the auxiliary gym at Harold McCormick Elementary School will also be converted into three classrooms in anticipation of changes due to the recent annexation of Carter County's west end, which added 645 new city residents.
   "We won't know the full effect of the annexation until the first day of school," Blevins said.