East Side space a concern

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  A proposal requesting a building review for the future expansion of East Side Elementary School is expected to come before the Elizabethton Board of Education on Thursday night.
  "It does look like there is a shortage of classroom space," said Dr. David Roper, superintendent of Elizabethton City Schools. "... having to house our computer lab in the library over the long term basis is not the preferred way to go."
  Several East Side parents appeared before the Elizabethton Board of Education at its Sept. 16 meeting expressing concern about overcrowding conditions at the school. As of Oct. 12, East Side Elementary School had an enrollment of 260 students. That total represents a 27-student increase over the enrollment figure of 233 for the 2003-2004 school year.
  Roper said the school was operating three kindergarten classes to accommodate a jump in student enrollment. The increased enrollment has also forced the school to use classrooms formerly reserved as art and music rooms for students.
  Roper said the system's two other elementary schools seemed to be "in reasonably good shape" with space accommodation for students. Student enrollments reported through Oct. 12 at West Side Elementary (241 students) and Harold McCormick Elementary (293 students) reflect reductions at those schools in recent years.
  Two classrooms and a new gymnasium were constructed at Harold McCormick Elementary two years ago. The system also expanded West Side Elementary within the past five years.
  "That doesn't mean it won't change as time goes by to make sure we are meeting the needs," Roper said. "As far as the adequacy of space, East Side is in the most difficult situation."
  According to system enrollment figures, Harold McCormick's enrollment fell from a high of 325 in the 2002-2003 school year to 293 students last year and through October. West Side numbers, at 267 students in 2000-2001 saw a marginal decline until recently when enrollment jumped from 238 last year to 241 through October.
  Roper said Thursday night's proposal, if approved, would commit the system to a full building project, but gather information about the school's needs. Based on the architect's review, the system could then proceed with a plan to expand to the school building.
  "It would look at some of our space needs there," he said "It would review costs and whether we were going to add some rooms on there.
  "We would see where we stand so far as how much of that could be addressed."
  The school system has seen a general decline in student enrollment at T.A. Dugger Junior High School and Elizabethton High School in the past four years. EHS totaled 850 students in 2001-2002 but saw those numbers fall to 807 students last year. T.A. Dugger Junior High enrolled 523 students the same year, but only have 479 reported enrolled through October 2004.