The project entails construction of a new school for fifth- and sixth-graders on the eastern part of the county, as well as additions and renovations to both high schools, Clinch School and Bulls Gap School.
After reviewing the preliminary plans with architect Don Solt for nearly two hours Thursday evening, board members agreed that they will have to meet in a later workshop session to discuss ways of lowering the cost. No action was taken on the plans Thursday by the board.
At some point the board will also have to make a decision on the location of the new school, as the two options presented by Solt differ in cost by $2.1 million.
The less expensive option calls for the two-level, 24-classroom school to be constructed in an open field on the northeast corner of the Church Hill Middle School campus.
CHMS and the new school would be connected by a corridor between the existing CHMS kitchen to the new school's cafeteria. That way the new school could use the CHMS kitchen, as opposed to building and equipping a new kitchen.
Other than that, the new school would function independently and would even have its own gymnasium.
The cost of constructing the new school on the CHMS campus was estimated at $11.7 million, compared to Solt's estimate of $13.8 million to construct the same school on new property.
Solt noted that the $13.8 million is a very rough estimate because it's not known how much site preparation or infrastructure would be needed if the county purchased new property.
The CHMS option also includes construction of a new football field with new bleachers, press box and a running track. The school has a running track on the site proposed for the new school.
In what was only brief and preliminary discussion on the topic, board members seemed to agree that the new football field could be whittled from the CHMS option to decrease the cost.
Director of Schools Clayton Armstrong told the Times-News following the workshop that he prefers the construction to be at the CHMS campus. Aside from the obvious cost difference advantage, Armstrong noted that it would also be advantageous due to the already established bus routes, utilities and central location to the communities the new school will serve.
Board member Perry Dykes said he preferred a new location for the school, however, because the CHMS site does not allow for future classroom expansions.
The purpose of the new school is to take fifth-grade students out of nearby elementary schools to decrease their population, as well as taking the sixth grade from CHMS, which is already beginning to outgrow its two-year-old classroom expansion.
Solt provided two estimates for the overall phase three project. The estimate that has the new school built on the CHMS campus was $29.8 million, while the option with a new location for the school was estimated at $31.9 million.
But neither of those figures included the approximately 15 percent of the overall phase three cost which, under law, would have to be divided between Rogersville City School and Kingsport.
While the new school is the most expensive piece of the puzzle in regard to phase three, the overall project will have an impact across the county.
The Bulls Gap School addition and renovation project has an estimated price tag of $7.6 million and incudes demolition of the old agriculture building where seven classrooms are currently located.
Additions to Bulls Gap School would include 13 new classrooms for K-4 students at the end of the corridor where the lower grade classrooms currently exist. Those lower grade classrooms would then be converted for fifth- and sixth-graders.
The K-12 Clinch School portion of phase three would include a two-level addition intended for use by the K-8 students with four classrooms on the lower level and five classrooms on the second level. Also on the second level would be a special education room, an art/music room and a science lab.
Both high school additions include a two-level addition with six new classrooms in each level for a total of 12.
The Volunteer High School addition cost was estimated at $2.5 million, while the Cherokee High School addition was estimated at $3 million.
Solt explained that the cost of the CHS project was higher due to the need for an elevator, which would be installed adjacent to the gymnasium to make the gym handicap accessible.
Board members said they will study Solt's plans and then schedule a workshop to discuss possible cost-cutting measures.