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School consolidation plan needs careful consideration

Staff Report • Feb 7, 2013 at 9:02 AM

Carter County officials are being asked to take on a very big issue involving their school system. As Elizabethton Bureau Chief John Thompson reported in Tuesday’s paper, the Board of Education has been presented with a bold plan that would see the county consolidate its current 16 schools into nine campuses.

It won’t happen overnight, and it surely won’t be easy, but consolidation will result in a more cost-effective and efficient management of the school system. It will also be a controversial topic because some schools will have to be closed.

The idea of school consolidation will not be embraced in some areas of the county, where residents have come to see their school as representing the heartbeat of their community. These schools are a focus of civic pride and history.

A committee has suggested the school board send the 1,600 students who now attend one of the county’s four existing high schools to one new high school to be constructed in the Hampton area. The committee has also suggested closing Valley Forge, Unaka, Keenburg, Range and Central elementary schools and transferring those students to the remaining elementary schools.

School consolidation is a topic school administrators, school board members and county commissioners have long tried to avoid. Political history suggests those parties will try to shelve this discussion as well. But with consolidation representing a cost savings of more than $4.5 million, the taxpayers of Carter County must insist their elected leaders give this plan the consideration it deserves.

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