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Six school buildings in Sullivan earn grades of F or D minus

Rick Wagner • Jan 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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BLOUNTVILLE — Six Sullivan County school buildings have received failing grades or D minuses when it comes to their physical condition.

From inadequate electrical service to worn-out plumbing and HVAC systems to leaky roofs, problems are especially bad at the six structures.

Joe Mike Akard, director of maintenance for the 12,000-student school system, said sagging floors, leaky galvanized steel steam heat lines encased in concrete, and rusty plumbing are among problems he sees most every day.

In addition, some schools have no sprinklers but have wood floors. Others have settling foundations and functionally obsolete heating and cooling systems or roofs that could spring leaks at any time.

Akard said a single roof on a larger school can cost more than the annual $800,000 budget for such repairs, with other projects costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We don’t operate on what needs to be done,” Akard said during a Sullivan County Board of Education retreat held earlier this month. “We operate on emergencies.”

The Partnership for Education Facilities Assessment — a combined effort of the Knox County/Knoxville Public Housing Authority and Knoxville/Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission — was hired by the Sullivan County Commission to do an analysis of the school system.

Phase one was enrollment projections, while phase two assessed the condition of the buildings.

The school board will meet at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Central Office to consider closing and rezoning some schools.

Director of Schools Jack Barnes said the proposed closures and rezonings are really a stopgap measure, and the school board needs to start planning a long-term construction and renovation plan, including possible consolidations of existing schools.

Following is a rundown of the schools on the bottom of the list including their number grade in the PEFA report.

•Weaver Elementary School (56), 3341 Weaver Pike, Bristol, Tenn.

Targeted for closure in a scenario the school board will discuss Thursday, the 1921 school with five additions and one renovation has deteriorating brick mortar in its old section, has Americans with Disabilities Act noncompliance issues including lack of an elevator, needs an upgraded three-phase power system, and needs a fire alarm update. It also has an “original” coal-fired boiler for heat and window air conditioners.

•Holston Valley Middle (57), 1717 Bristol Caverns Highway, Bristol, Tenn.

Built in 1935, the school has no sprinklers, needs a fire alarm and has ADA issues, as well as inadequate parking for events. Original steam radiators and window air conditioners provide climate control, and steam piping under the floors “is in poor condition and has numerous leaks,” the PEFA report says. It has no sprinklers but has fire hydrants — and asbestos tile.

•Valley Pike Elementary (57), 2125 Carolina Ave., Bristol, Tenn.

Also targeted for possible closure, the PEFA report found this school had non-compliant stair railing and other ADA issues, needs fire alarm updates and an elevator. The 1948 building, since renovated and with an addition, also needs to have its three-phase electric service replaced. It has original steam convection heaters and window air conditioners.

•Kingsley Elementary (59), 100 Emory Lane, Kingsport.

The 1940 school with later additions has no sprinklers, inaccessible toilets, and needs fire alarm updates as well an an elevator. It needs new exterior lighting and has original steam heat, window air conditioners, and a gym without air conditioning.

•Sullivan Middle (60), 4145 Sullivan Gardens Drive, Kingsport.

Built in 1930 with three additions and one renovation, the school has no sprinklers except in the stage area, has ADA issues, and needs an elevator. It has original steam radiators and window air conditioners, with “most of the equipment ... in poor condition” and needing replacement. It also has flooding in the band room, inadequate parking and needs a new roof.

•Cedar Grove Elementary (60), 100 Coley St., Kingsport.

Built in 1928 with five later additions, the school is also targeted for possible closure. It has inadequate parking space, rough paving and old roofing. It has “above average” brick damage, poor flooring, no sprinklers, fire alarms in need of updating and ADA issues. It also has original steam heaters and window air conditioners, with no air conditioning in the gym. Steam piping is not insulated in a small crawl space. It also has some toilets connected to a septic system instead of the city sewer.

Mary Hughes School, a K-8 facility in Piney Flats, was next at 61, followed by North High at 64, East High at 64 and Indian Springs Elementary at 68.

None of those are on the potential closure list.

Akard Elementary near Bristol, which got a 69 grade, is being considered for possible closure due to its low enrollment of about 160.

On the other end of the list, Emmett Elementary, which is a circa 1990s building built to replace an older building, got a grade of 90, followed by Sullivan Elementary at 88, Miller Perry Elementary at 82, and the Central High vocational building at 78.

For a complete look at the PEFA reports on Sullivan County schools, go to www.knoxmpc.org and click on the plans and studies section.

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