All scenarios point to closure of Cedar Grove Elementary

Rick Wagner • Jan 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Cedar Grove Elementary School in Bloomingdale still would close, but Sullivan North High School would not take in seventh-grade students.

That proposal was discussed during a Sullivan County Board of Education work session Thursday afternoon, will be talked about during Friday night’s meeting of the Cedar Grove PTA, and will be among options voted on during the BOE’s March 2 regular meeting.

Elsewhere across the county, it looks like the middle school students at Mary Hughes Elementary and Middle School in Piney Flats will stay put instead of being split between Bluff City and Holston middle schools, as originally proposed.

School board members Thursday said they have no problem with that as long as Mary Hughes school officials follow through with plans to abandon use of modular units the board has targeted for removal countywide.

Nothing the school board discussed Thursday avoided closure of Cedar Grove in the North High zone, Valley Pike Elementary in the East zone and Akard Elementary in the Central zone. Also still on the table is a proposal to shift students from the overcrowded Colonial Heights Middle School to the underutilized Sullivan Middle.

The scenarios as originally presented would save more than $900,000.

They are based partly on information from a $50,000 study of county school building conditions and capacities the County Commission funded.

School officials already have attended community meetings at Akard, Mary Hughes and Valley Pike and may have more meetings after Friday night’s Cedar Grove meeting, Director of Schools Jack Barnes said after the work session. That meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of the school, 100 Coley St.

School board member Jim Kiss of Bloomingdale during Thursday’s work session called the new North zone proposal “the lesser of two evils.”

He is an adamant opponent of moving seventh-graders to North under any circumstances.

The original proposal would create a “school within a school” at North that would have its own middle school principal, staff and operating times but share some commons areas.

Under the new scenario. Cedar Grove would close and its K-3 students would be reassigned to Kingsley and Brookside elementary schools. The fourth-graders would move to Ketron, but seventh-graders would remain at Ketron instead of going to North.

At the behest of board member Dan Wells of Lynn Garden, the BOE March 2 will consider another option to the original North scenario that would move the seventh- and eighth-graders to the vocational section of North instead of the wing where school staff originally had proposed the school within a school be. He said that would better isolate the middle schoolers.

Wells also suggested leaving things as is until a master plan for school renovation and construction is put together, including a proposed K-3 school building on the Ketron campus that would replace Kingsley and Brookside.

However, Barnes said the system needs to cut costs now if it wants to make a credible request to the County Commission for a $50 million bond issue for school projects soon.

Barnes also said the system can’t continue to balance its budget with “surplus” funds. It used $1.6 million of its fund balance to balance its budget for 2008-09 and about $1 million the year before that.

“We’re just trying to be as frugal as we can and provide these services,” Barnes said, citing a lean state budget for next fiscal year. “You can only go back to that well so many times.”

Another scenario presented Thursday would move Central Heights Elementary fourth-graders to Ketron in the North zone, taking them from the Central zone. However, Barnes said that likely would require additional bus routes and eventually hurt Central’s population. Central is the most populous of the county’s four high schools at 1,059 students. North High has the smallest number of students at 794, including eighth-graders, which the other three high schools don’t have.

For more information visit www.scde.k12.tn.us.

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