Carter County, TN -

A seven-acre site along Highway 91 could be home to the new Unaka Middle School.

Carter County Schools bought the property with capital projects referendum money. Director of Schools Kevin Ward tells us they met once with the county commission's budget committee; they'll meet with them again Tuesday night. "We'll go back before the budget committee and we will continue our discussion on this middle school that's approximately sixteen million dollars," Ward said.

The new middle school would take and consolidate grades five through eight from Keenburg, Hunter and Unaka elementary schools. "It will allow us in another district to create the K-4, 5-8, 9-12 academic setting," Ward said. "Which we have seen huge advantages by having it at Happy Valley for several years now."

Another thing the new school would do is allow the school system to eliminate over twenty modular classrooms, some that have been in place since the 1970s. There's been a lot of talk about the county's four high schools consolidating into one centrally-located school.

But Ward says the school board feels that middle schools are a more practical, feasible way to go. "A one high school setting is a little more complicated thought because of the geographic layout of Carter County," Ward said.

Plus, he says building one big high school would cost at least three times more money than the current Unaka Middle School plan. "I don't know how in the world we would ever begin a conversation on a school that would be upwards of $50 million," Ward said.

Ward also told us that to help pay for the new middle school, Carter County property tax payers could expect to pay around $38 more per year based on $100,000 assessed property value.

Monday night's community meeting begins at 7:00 at Hunter Elementary School.