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Hawkins schools ready to pitch $38.4 million building project

Jeff Bobo • Apr 12, 2007 at 11:42 AM

ROGERSVILLE - The Hawkins County Board of Education on Thursday wrapped up the process of selling the phase three building and renovation project to itself.

The next step is to begin selling the project to the Hawkins County Commission, and that process begins April 26 when a joint workshop meeting is scheduled between the BOE and the commission.

Thursday evening, the school board held its final workshop session to finalize its phase three building project plans, which now have a construction price tag of $34 million.

But taking into account the 5 percent that must be paid to Kingsport and the 7 percent that must be paid to Rogersville because they both have school districts inside Hawkins County, the actual number that county commissioners will be working with if they decide to fund the project is $38.4 million.

The biggest decision finalized Thursday was informally agreeing to build a new $9 million K-12 Clinch School as opposed to the proposed $5 million renovation and addition plan for Clinch, which was initially considered.

There was some concern expressed by board members that the commission will not be in favor of the more expensive Clinch solution. But there was also a consensus among board members, Director of Schools Clayton Armstrong and architect Don Solt that the new school is the best use of tax dollars.

"Five million dollars is an expensive Band-Aid," said board member Tammy Baird, who represents Clinch.

Arguments against the renovation and addition project include the fact that the original school is old, has no sprinkler system, and is inadequate to the needs of a modern school. The addition would also eliminate any possibility of future expansion at Clinch due to a lack of space on campus.

The only argument against the new school is the cost, some of which is unknown because the approximately 15 flat acres needed for the new school has not been acquired as of yet.

The board noted that it still has the plans for the Clinch renovation and addition project to fall back on if the commission gives a thumbs-down on the new school.

The only dissension on the board Thursday was with regard to the new fifth- and sixth-grade school planned to be constructed on the Church Hill Middle School campus. The new $11.2 million school would take in fifth-graders from Mount Carmel, Church Hill, Carters Valley and McPheeters Bend, as well as relieve CHMS of its sixth-graders.

The new school would include 24 classrooms, a new gym and cafeteria, and would be connected to CHMS by the kitchen, which would be expanded and shared by both schools.

Board member Perry Dykes said he couldn't support construction of the new school on the CHMS campus. Dykes said he favors a separate location for the new school that would allow for future expansion.

The six other board members favored the CHMS location, however, noting that the additional expense of buying property and establishing new infrastructure could be avoided.

As for other aspects of the project, both Cherokee and Volunteer high schools will still receive 12-classroom additions for the purposes of creating a ninth-grade academy.

And Bulls Gap School will receive a total of 17 new classrooms. With the elimination of the old agriculture building which holds seven classrooms, however, the school will actually be increasing its capacity by 10 classrooms.

The BOE has scheduled a workshop with county commissioners at the bus shop boardroom in Rogersville for April 26 at 6 p.m. Following the meeting, the BOE will meeting in special session to consider the final vote for the project.

Assuming it is approved by the BOE, the project would then be placed on the agenda for consideration at the May County Commission meeting.

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