New Field House Back on Track After Initial Setback

Panthers Corner, Union County High School
field house

Blairsville, Ga – Administration’s hiring a new architect to design the new field house after initial plans came in exponentially over the initial budget.

New field house project once again moving forward after the original architect provided a $2M site plan.

The board advised the project returned to square one and find out where expenses could be cut to better serve the school as a whole.

“We are in the process of hiring an architect,” stated Assistant Superintendent David Murphy, “We think that we can save more money and have a better product by doing a design-build. This is where the architect designs it. We went with the number two finalist in our prior commitment. We were very impressed with their presentation.”

The contract’s currently with the school system’s attorneys for review and to guarantee that they can back out if the architect is negligent in any way.

“How is that any different from the first time? Didn’t we use an architect company for the plan, and then bid out based on that? It sounds like the same thing?” questioned board member Janna Akins.

“This one’s going to have a lot tighter specifications,” stated Murphy, “They’re going in with a cap – that allows us to see the product being built more inclusively.”

Once the hiring is finalized, the board and administration will set specifications and budget cap.

“The architect plans we paid for the first time are they going to be used at all the second time?” asked Akins.

“No, ma’am,” responded Murphy, “That is a very expensive building.”

Expenses spent on the field house original plan also won’t be recouped by the school system due to terms of the previous contract.

The board rejected the flooring bid presented in July meeting after an initial review from a flooring engineer, and new bids expected in September.

State of Schools Reports

With school back in session, four of the five principals delivered their quarterly reports. Woody Gap Principal Carol Knight was absent due to family obligations.

UCPS Principal Millie Owenby stated that the new car rider and pick-up lines were running pretty smoothly with the school currently five minutes off their intended 2:40 p.m. pick-up time. UCPS total enrollment is 700 students.  They are no longer doubling up pick-up lines due to the potential danger of children running between cars to reach their parents. MAP testing has started for the school and will continue for the next two weeks. Owenby plans on hosted a school-wide fundraiser for playground equipment and ESPLOST currently has $65,000 allocated to the primary school for new equipment.

UCES Principal Jerry Bavero reported that the elementary currently has 600 students, which is 30 more than expected, but teachers and administration are adapting. One teacher came forward to host a New Kids on the Block program to partner new students with older and established ones to help them feel at home. The morning pep-rallies continue to be a big hit with students.

UCMS Principal Gwen Stafford said the middle school is at 686 students for the start of the year. Clubs will begin on Friday, August 23. The school is also in the middle of MAP testing to gather information on students’ strengths and weaknesses. Fall sports are up and running – football, cross country, and softball. Traffic also continues to run smoothly.

UCHS Principal C.T. Hussion has 835 students with 62 new teenagers, who need to learn the culture. Overall, the high school’s had a smooth start. The chorus sang the national anthem at a Gwinnett Stingers game. The drama departments conducting an 80s show. Hussion wants to improve homeroom and soft skills using Georgia Best. Student fees program continues to be an asset for the school making $20,000 thus far with $4,000 carrying over from last year. Another $2,000 expected to come in after homecoming and everything left over goes to student council to improve the school how they see fit.

Rayfield presents school security and safety update


BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – During the Union County Board of Education (BOE) work session Tuesday, Feb. 20, Dr. Fred Rayfield, superintendent for Union County Schools, delivered an update on school security and safety procedures in the wake of the recent school shooting in Florida.

Rayfield stated there are three non-negotiable duties for which all employees of Union County Schools are responsible: teach students, protect students and act ethically and professionally.

The superintendent clarified that all security and safety plans and protocols for Union County Schools have been approved by the state and Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), and Union County has been used as a model for other north Georgia school systems to follow.

Dr. Fred Rayfield, superintendent of Union County Schools, updates the Board of Education on school safety and security policies and measures Tuesday, Feb. 20.

“Every aspect is reviewed annually,” Rayfield said of the school system’s security and safety policies. “Safety enhancements and additions are an ongoing priority.”

Currently, according to Rayfield, Union County Schools employ three school resource officers (SROs) from the Union County Sheriff’s Office as well as two security officers and one security guard who mans the guard shack at Union County High School.

Additionally, other system-wide safety features include a required picture ID for all school system employees, security cameras inside and outside of facilities, security cameras on buses, thorough visitor sign-in processes, secure “buzz-through” main entry points at facilities, 24/7 monitoring of electronic threats and messages on social media and other online outlets, and on-site panic buttons.

Rayfield explained the school system has spent over $715,000 over the last five years on these and other safety enhancements for schools, which averages to $271 a student spent for safety and security measures.

“I can assure you,” Rayfield told the audience at the meeting, “that there are some things in place here that make me feel very good about where we’re at with security and that we’re making progress toward getting better … I believe that we do everything that we can to protect kids no matter what the situation, and I applaud the (BOE) for appropriating the resources over the last three to five years .”

Following Rayfield’s presentation, BOE member Janna Akins stated, “I think it’s hard to fathom that we’ve got kindergartners that we should be concerned about in these kind of situations, but that’s just the times that we live in now. This information was very helpful, and I appreciate the board and the school system’s approach of not just having a reactionary plan but an ongoing plan to make (safety) a priority.”

Also during the work session, Courtney Waller, school nutrition program director, presented a slight revision to the school system’s wellness policy. Waller explained the policy, according to federal mandates, must be reassessed every three years

According to Waller, the revision would change the wording from “all food and beverages made available on campus during the school day shall be consistent with the minimum requirements of federal law” to “all food and beverages available for purchase …”

Later, in the regular meeting, as the board was about to approve the revision, Rayfield explained this proposed revision must remain tabled for 30 days before final approval can be made to change the policy.

In the regular meeting, Superintendent Rayfield awarded two presentations with the first being an art student recognition awarded to second-grader Emma Taylor. Taylor’s design was selected for use on the Union County School System Christmas card in 2017. “Thank you for a beautiful piece of artwork,” Rayfield told Taylor.

Next, Rayfield presented representatives from Union General Hospital – Lewis Kelley, chief executive officer, Michael Gay, chief operating officer, and Leslie Daniel, administrative liason – with a Partner in Education award.

“They do a tremendous amount of work throughout the school system to provide lots of services for our students and employees,” Rayfield said of the hospital’s partnership with Union County Schools, “and we’re just absolutely excited to recognize Union General Hospital as our community partner for this month.”

In other business, the BOE unanimously approved, as submitted, all principals’ quarterly reports, the monthly financial reports, fiscal year 2018 budget amendments, and personnel recommendations.



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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping. - Dedicated to serve the needs of the community. Provide a source of real news-Dependable Information-Central to the growth and success of our Communities. Strive to encourage, uplift, warn, entertain, & enlighten our readers/viewers- Honest-Reliable-Informative.

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