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Officials: School facilities Phases 2, 3 may never happen

Rick Wagner • Mar 15, 2020 at 7:30 AM

KINGSPORT — Kingsport school and city officials are on the same page when it come to finishing the first phase of a school facilities plan, but that doesn’t mean they agree on all aspects of it.

When it comes to Phases 2 and 3, however, all agree those aren’t even on the table right now and might never occur — a message that Alderwoman Jennifer Adler says should be “over-communicated” to the public.

SHOULD SEVIER REALLY BECOME AN ELEMENTARY?

The Board of Education and Board of Mayor and Aldermen have informally agreed they will proceed with a request for qualifications to get an architect who will make cost estimates of what it will take to finish Phase 1. Alderman Tommy Olterman said he didn’t support buying North High School but became a “team player” after the vote, still questioning how much it would take to renovate the school for city use.

Already finished in Phase 1 are the new addition to Dobyns-Bennett High School and the purchase of the Sullivan North High/Middle facility to serve as the new Sevier Middle.

Proposed renovations of D-B, D-B EXCEL and North likely will cost much more than officials originally thought, city and school leaders said.

“There’s nothing there (at Sevier) that says elementary school,” said Alderwoman Betsy Cooper, a former teacher and former school board member.

However, BOE President Carrie Upshaw said the decision to make Sevier an elementary school makes sense because it is within easy walking distance of residential areas and is cost effective.

WHAT ARE PHASES 2 and 3?

Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse pointed out no funding exists for Phases 2 and 3 of the facilities plan.

Phase 2 includes a new middle school at a cost of $35 million or the renovation of a county school to be determined. Additionally, Adams, Johnson and Washington elementary schools would be renovated at a cost of $4 million. That phase also includes the renovation of Robinson Middle into an elementary school and the closing of Jefferson and Lincoln elementary schools.

Phase 3 includes the building of a new elementary school for $13.5 million and the closing of Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary schools.

Adler and Vice Mayor Collette George called for an “over-communicated” message that Phase 1 may be the only phase, getting agreement from school board member and retired teacher Jim Welch. George said the new cost estimates need to have parts of the project prioritized in case all can’t be funded at once.

“I’m 100% on board with Phase 1,” said Welch, who joined the board well after the facilities study.

George, addressing a question from Alderman James Phillips about the new middle school in Phase 2, said Phases 2 and 3 will be a long time coming — if ever.

“In your lifetime, you may see Phase 2. I don’t think I will,” Welch said bluntly. “We may never get to Phase 2.”

ENOUGH COMMUNITY INPUT?

Adler questioned whether enough community awareness and input occurred in the formation and adoption of the facilities plan, which occurred a few months after she moved to Kingsport. However, BOE member Todd Golden, President Carrie Upshaw and Vice President Eric Hyche said the steering committee had wide representation and community meetings and input to the committee came from folks throughout the city.

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