Brick-laying ceremony, tours at new Sullivan East Middle School set for Thursday

Rick Wagner • Aug 27, 2019 at 7:15 PM

BLUFF CITY — Progress on the new Sullivan East Middle School, scheduled to open in January 2020, is to be marked at 2 p.m. Thursday with a brick-laying ceremony at the school.

The school is located at 4500 Weaver Pike, about a mile from Sullivan East High School.

“We’ll all have the chance to lay a brick under the supervision of people who know how to do it,” Director of Schools David Cox, who recently became head of the school system, said Friday. “It’s a ceremony to symbolically help with building of the school.”

Those specifically invited include school board members and county commissioners, but anyone can attend.

Immediate past Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski, who retired after 42 years with the system, said the event is open to the public and that aside from folks getting to lay a brick for the building, they’ll also have the opportunity to sign the brick they lay. The backs of the bricks will be painted white to make the signatures more visible, she said. After the brick laying, she said, tours of the building will be given every 15 minutes. Some walls have already are painted and floors are being laid.

“It’s a way for people who want to have a hand in the school to be able to place a brick with mortar and sign the back of the brick,” Rafalowski said Monday.

The more than $20 million middle school and more than $60 million West Ridge High School, the latter near Tri-Cities Airport off Exit 63, are funded by a countywide bond issue of $140 million, which also helped finance Dobyns-Bennett’s more than $20 million Science and Technology Center. Students began using that facility on Aug. 5. Money also went to Bristol, Tennessee’s pending new Vance Middle School. Johnson City’s share went to work at Liberty Bell Middle School.

The new middle school will replace Bluff City and Holston Valley middle schools and the middle school portion of Mary Hughes School, a K-8 facility in Piney Flats. West Ridge will house all Sullivan North, South and some or all Sullivan Central high school students, with some Central zone students being reassigned to Sullivan East High. Central and South are to become middle schools, while North has been sold to Kingsport to become the new Sevier Middle School.