Also, the school system is officially on a path that could lead to offering Mandarin Chinese to at least elementary students starting this fall, and the Midland Center is on its way to being the home for the new city employee health clinic, both those actions following 5-0 school board votes Thursday night.
The board approved the low bid on the Reserve Officer Training Corps project, accepting the low base bid of $474,463 from Beuris Construction plus four of five alternates that add up to $527,905. That compares to an original bid with all alternates of $747,300.
The board had considered the project in January but decided to reject those bids and rebid, with redesigns, because the original bid was too high.
The alternate removed was a $62,799 canopy connecting the ROTC building with the main D-B building, something that could be added later.
The whole project works out to $666,000, according to finance director David Frye, accounting for the $527,905 for Beuris, a $31,675 contingency fee of 6 percent, $38,370 for architectural expenses and reimbursables and $62,050 in other expenses.
The board Thursday night approved the $527,905 to Beuris and the $31,675 contingency fee, which will go forward to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for approval later this month. Frye said the project should be done in late August and in use by mid-fall. The move will free up the old D-B band room space for other uses.
The board also approved a partnership with the Confucius Institute of the University of Memphis which, if money is available in the 2013-14 budget, could provide Chinese teachers for the school system at a cost of $18,000 a year and a health insurance cost of about $90 a month.
The local system also would have to provide a place to live for the teachers, who come from China, as well as transportation.
Hsiang-te Kung, director of the institute, Yang Hiping, associate director, and Ricki Jackson, also of the institute, spoke with the BOE members through a online video hookup from Memphis.
Greeneville public schools, where Ailshie was superintendent before he came to Kingsport, more than three years ago became the first public school system in Tennessee to participate in the Confucius program.
Since then, Johnson City and Bristol, Tenn., schools have joined the program. In Johnson City, two teachers serve elementary and middle school students, while in Bristol four serve students grades K-12.
Kingsport scenarios presented Thursday included two teachers at two elementary schools for pre-kindergarten to second grade, one in each middle school zone, and possible evening classes for eighth-graders and high-schoolers; adding a third teacher for the middle schools; and a fourth to serve Dobyns-Bennett High School. The last option also could allow evening classes for the public.
Jackson said the key to foreign language instruction is reaching children as young as possible.
Kung said the institute and the funding body in China are nonprofit, nonreligious and nonpolitical entities. The institute, the first in Tennessee and the mid-South and 24th in the nation, provides teaching, training, testing study aboard and comparative research. The institute serves more than 7,000 students in Tennessee.
Jackson said the need for Chinese is apparent when you consider that worldwide at least 1.3 billion people speak the language, compared to 3.46 million speaking English and 3.25 million speaking Spanish.
The board also voted to allow the new city employee clinic, set to open June 1, to use a portion of the Midland building. The school system is studying becoming self-insured, which would allow all employees to use the clinic, or if that is not feasible, offering the clinic to classified employees. City Attorney Mike Billingsley said the clinic also would be available for workers compensation care for city and school employees and drug testing from those groups for those with commercial driver’s licenses.