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Open house showcases new middle school

After years of planning, months of construction and weeks of delays, Unicoi County Middle School opened its doors to showcase the new facility during a ceremony Sunday.
“On behalf of the board of education, thank you, for coming out this afternoon and sharing with us the opportunity to showcase our new building,” Unicoi County Board of Education Chairwoman Renea Rogers said. “It has been an honor to be involved in this project.”
“This has truly been a community project and we thank you for your support, your understanding and your cooperation with this project.” Rogers said.
The school has a 800-student capacity with 44 classrooms, and features a state-of-the-art media center.
Each room has large windows providing natural light along with a brand-new 800-seat gymnasium.
Director of Schools Denise Brown said she has heard only positive remarks about the structure, and said she was glad to share the school with the community.
“It feels amazing to put the final touch on it and open it up to the community,” Brown said. “It was a lot of planning and effort by the whole community — (the reaction) has been very positive, they like the colors, they like the space.”
School board member Garland “Bubba” Evely said the school was a part of a five-year plan that came to fruition, and he said he was proud of the work that those involved accomplished.
“I stand in front of you today a humble person … I am so proud of this facility and not only the facility but the community as a whole that stands together and provides the type of facilities that our children need to get a better education,” Evely said.
During the ceremony, students from the sixth, seventh and eighth grades read essays about what the school means to them.
Morgan Lee Brown, Denise Brown’s daughter, spoke about the spacious rooms and “beautiful” gym, as well as the natural lighting in each classroom.
After the ceremony, community members toured the school and were given demonstrations of its features by students. A video played in each classroom describing the benefits of the facility.
Principal John English, along with Brown, said they were happy to see the facility’s completion, giving a sense of finality to the school.
“It feels amazing to put the final touch on it and open it up to the community,” Brown said.
English said “it feels good on our end” to finally be settled in the school, and he said it becomes more like a home each day.
“Every week it seems a little more settled,” English said.
Construction started on Aug. 25, 2008, and the school was completed on May 17, 2010. Project architect work was performed by Beeson, Lusk and Street and Denark Construction was the contractor for the new school.
The delay in the school’s open house was due to flooding issues that caused major damage to the school’s gymnasium.