CHURCH HILL — As a Church Hill resident who has spent untold hours on the campus of Church Hill Middle School, architect Don Solt had a pretty good idea Thursday what concerns some of the neighbors were going to express about the upcoming new school construction.
The school hosted a community meeting in the gymnasium Thursday evening where the public was invited to ask questions, express concerns and review drawings of the new fifth- and sixth-grade school that will begin construction on campus next year.
About a dozen people showed up, half of whom are neighbors and the other half who are teachers glad to know that the new classrooms will ease overcrowding in some other schools on the eastern half of Hawkins County.
Some of the neighbors were less enthusiastic.
One concern Solt was fully prepared to address was drainage. He admitted that drainage runoff from campus has been a big problem in the neighborhood for a long time but said that problem will be solved during construction of the new school.
“This project is putting in a very elaborate and expensive system of storm drainage pipe that will take all of that water that previously went on you guys and take it around the whole building to a water management area,” Solt said. “There won’t be any water coming off of this campus onto your property.”
But there were many other concerns aside from drainage. One neighbor said she wanted to know how the construction would affect her home across the street, and would she stay covered with dust for months at a time.
Solt said the actual structure should go up fairly quickly, but if it causes filth or a nuisance to neighbors there can be discussions with the construction company about cleaning up the dust.
Another concern was for security once the new school is completed. The building will be constructed in an “L” shape at the corner of Pine Street and Park Avenue where a walking trail is currently located.
That walking trail will be relocated inside the football stadium, and although it will be lit and protected by video surveillance, it won’t be within view of several residences. Areas at the front entrance of the new school will be hidden from the street as well, and there was concern expressed that drug dealers or other such villains might hide out there at night and victimize the neighborhood.
Principal William Christian also attended Thursday’s meeting, and he noted that there will be a new video surveillance system with cameras placed in strategic locations.
Solt added that wrongdoers on campus will be identified because they’ll be on camera.
There’s quite a bit about the project that that will be positive for the community, Solt said.
The new Church Hill school will benefit several elementary schools east of Surgoinsville, moving the entire fifth-grade student body in Mount Carmel, Church Hill, Carters Valley and other areas east of Surgoinsville to the new school. That will open up new classroom space in those other schools, as well as at Church Hill Middle School, which will transfer its sixth-grade population to the new building.
Parking is currently a problem on campus, but the number of parking spaces available on campus will increase from 77 to 254.
The football stadium will receive a new system of handicap-accessible aluminum bleachers with a 1,000-seat capacity. The stadium will also receive new rest- rooms, press box and a practice track.