Hawkins officials hope school projects end space crunch

Jeff Bobo • Jan 17, 2007 at 10:42 AM

ROGERSVILLE - Hawkins County Schools officials are hoping the proposed $30 million phase three building addition and renovation project will provide enough classroom space to accommodate growth for the next 25 years.

But when it comes to the unpredictable nature of student population growth, there are no guarantees.

Who could have predicted that only four years after the construction of the new K-2 Joseph Rogers Primary School it would now be filled to capacity?

Another surprise was the need for modular classrooms outside of Carters Valley Elementary School to deal with overcrowding less than a year after its 12-classroom addition project was completed in 2001.

And no one predicted that within two years of the completion of the Church Hill Middle School 12-classroom addition and renovation project that school would be filled to capacity as well.

Now the school system is proposing the construction of a new 24-classroom school for the fifth and sixth grades on the east end of the county to open up classroom space at CHMS and its four feeder schools.

Director of Schools Clayton Armstrong said Wednesday he hopes this will free up enough classroom space to allow for K-8 student growth on the east end of the county over the next 25 years. And the system is proposing another 12-classroom addition at Volunteer High School and Cherokee High School to accommodate the older students as well.

"There is still some classroom space left in Mount Carmel, but the other three feeder schools to Church Hill Middle - Church Hill Elementary, McPheeters Bend and Carters Valley - are all now using modular classrooms," Armstrong said. "Our goal in building the new fifth- and sixth-grade school is to get those elementary school students out of the modular classrooms and make room for future growth. I hope that it would last 25 years, but we can't promise that.

"Certainly it's no secret that our county is growing, and it's not just at the upper end. There's growth across the county, and hopefully we're preparing ourselves for it."

Removing the fifth grade from each of the four CHMS feeder schools should free up several classrooms. There are currently 81 fifth-graders at Carters Valley, 63 at Church Hill Elementary, 25 at McPheeters Bend and 74 at Mount Carmel for a total of 243.

Assuming the average classroom has 20 students, that amounts to about 12 free classrooms combined at all four schools.

There are another 236 sixth-graders attending CHMS this year, which means about 12 free classrooms for that school as well with the construction of the new school.

The 12-classroom additions at both high schools are tentatively planned for use as a ninth-grade academy. Currently the ninth-grade population at both schools is identical at 354.

Other aspects of the phase three building project include a 13-classroom addition at the K-8 Bulls Gap School, which will increase its student capacity by 135; and 10 new classrooms for Clinch School to accommodate K-8 and one special education class.

The Hawkins County Board of Education is expected to study the building plans for the next month and then hold a workshop session intended to find ways of cutting the $30 million price tag.

The school system intends to ask the Hawkins County Commission to fund the project in the 2007-08 fiscal year budget.

To summarize the Hawkins County Schools building plans to the point, the $15.4 million phase one project included construction of Joseph Rogers Primary School and 12-classroom additions to Carters Valley and Hawkins Elementary.

The $16 million phase two project included 12 new classrooms at Church Hill Middle School, 10 classrooms at Mooresburg Elementary, 13 classrooms at Mount Carmel Elementary, six classrooms at Surgoinsville Elementary, and eight classrooms at St. Clair Elementary.

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