The county system on Friday held the groundbreaking for the $60 million, 1,700-student West Ridge High School near Exit 63 of Interstate 81. The new high school will take the place of Sullivan North, South and most or all of Central high schools in the fall of 2020. That will leave Sullivan East as the only other county high school.
A November groundbreaking was held for the $20 million, 800-student Sullivan East Middle School, which is to open in 2019 and take in students from Holston Valley and Bluff City middle schools and grades 6-8 from Mary Hughes School.
For Sullivan school building trivia, take the following four-question quiz. (Answers were confirmed by Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski, past Kingsport Times News articles and the most recent school facilities study.)
1. WHEN DID THE MOST RECENT NEW SCHOOLS OPEN?
Sullivan North and South high schools opened in the fall of 1980, while Holston Elementary/Middle School, Central Heights Elementary and Rock Springs Elementary opened in 1979. As for renovated schools, Emmett Elementary was mostly rebuilt in 1999 and had an addition built in 2012, while the old 1953 Ketron High School building underwent a renovation finished in 2012 as it went from a middle school to an elementary.
2. WHAT IS THE OLDEST OPERATING SCHOOL IN THE COUNTY SYSTEM?
The middle school portion of Sullivan Gardens K-8 — formerly Sullivan High School, then Sullivan West High and Sullivan West Middle — was built in 1931 and is the oldest county school building still operating as a county school.
Close seconds in age are Bluff City Middle and the Blountville Middle gym, both from 1932. Before mid-2017, however, the oldest operating school was Weaver Elementary. It was built in 1921, but the Board of Education closed it in the spring of 2017 because of structural concerns about a 1950s addition. Other pre-1950 schools still in use in the county include Indian Springs Elementary and Holston Valley Middle, both from 1935; Mary Hughes School in 1941; Blountvillle Elementary and Bluff City Elementary in 1948 and Miller Perry Elementary in 1949.
3. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE HIGH SCHOOLS THAT WILL BE CLOSED?
Sullivan South and Central high schools will become middle schools. South will serve students in the North and Colonial Heights middle schools and the grades 6-8 students from Sullivan Gardens K-8. Central will serve students from Holston Middle, Innovation Academy and Blountville Middle.
The Sullivan North High/Middle building was bought by Kingsport for $20 million to become a city middle school and is to be turned over to the city by 2020 — or when the new county high school opens.
4. WHAT HAPPENS TO SCHOOLS NO LONGER USED?
The school board has taken no action on the disposition of any schools to be affected by the latest construction except for the sale of North. However, most schools no longer used are declared surplus and sold by sealed-bid or public auctions, such as this year’s sealed-bid auction held for Weaver (not yet finalized and awaiting a survey), a 2015 sealed-bid auction of Brookside Elementary (now a self-storage facility) and a 2015 public auction of Kingsley Elementary (not yet redeveloped). Others remain in county ownership, and some have deed reversion clauses to the heirs of original owners difficult to track because of multiple generations of descendants.
However, some former schools, such as the old Akard Elementary on the outskirts of Bristol, are repurposed for other uses. Akard serves as a service center (warehouse and some systemwide offices.) School system officials have discussed moving the central office from the space leased atop the county health department offices to the middle school section of Holston Middle/Elementary School.
“There’ll be some of our buildings that we don’t let go,” Rafalowski said.