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New Union County school shows how you can stretch $5 million

7:40 PM, Jun 29, 2010   |    comments
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As the future of Knox County's Carter Elementary remains up in the air, many Knox County Commissioners are pointing toward a project north of the county-line as an example of just how far you can stretch $5 million.

Monday night, the commission voted to fund Knox County Schools' capital plan with the exception of $5 million worth of remodeling at Carter Elementary.

Several Knox County commissioners made mention at this week's meeting that if counties like Union and Claiborne can find a way to build brand new elementary schools for $5 million, why can't Knox County? 

Paulette Elementary just south of Maynardville is one example of a school that's being built with a price tag that's less than the remodel job scheduled for Carter Elementary in Knox County.

"In Union County, with our low tax base of course you want to do everything efficiently.  Use every dollar, squeeze every amount of building out of the dollar you can," Wayne Goforth, Union County's Director of Schools said.

It was a long struggle, but they eventually found a way to pay for it and broke ground on the 54,000 square foot Paulette Elementary school in April.

"We're really excited about this building.  The very fact that Union County can afford this is even better," Goforth said.

From ground preparation, to new desks inside, to a baseball field in the works the total cost of the project is less than $7 million.

The building alone cost Union County about $4.5 million.

"The actual building costs are a little over $60 per square foot," Goforth said.

Depending upon enrollment, the project breaks down to somewhere around $17,000 per student.

In Southwest Knox County, the new elementary school has a much higher price tag. But, it will house roughly three times as many students with a capacity of 1,200.

The new school planned at the Northshore Town Center has a total price tag of about $20 million, that includes land and site development.

That comes out to about $20,000 per student, according to Knox County Schools' records.

"You have to question that when you know and you have the figures and you're already underway building a school for $4.5 million, you have to question where that information is coming from," Goforth said.

Knox County Schools can have different specifications from Paulette Elementary.  Things like the number of entrances can make a dramatic difference in the bottom line price.

Also, because different land is available in different areas, school plans often have to be drawn new for each school the district considers building.

As Knox County Commissioners look to please the Carter Community who sit with a school in disrepair, the idea of building a basic, brick and mortar school for the 530 students there may be appealing.

The prospect of opening up their brand new 24 room school in August 2011 is absolutely appealing for Goforth. "I'm not thrilled for myself, I am thrilled for this community and this county that they had the foresight to look at their children's future and build these schools so their children can get a great education," he said.

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