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Tonight's the night: Yennie to give school recommendation

March 14th, 2013 12:08 am by Rick Wagner

BLOUNTVILLE — As the countdown to a Sullivan County school rezoning and closing recommendation continues, county school board members said questions likely will remain afterward.


At issue, among other things, are budget matters, whether Sullivan County has four or three high schools and athletics at the high and middle school levels.


Director of Schools Jubal Yennie, during a 7 p.m. Board of Education work session tonight at Northeast State Community College, will recommend to the Board of Education one of three scenarios made public Feb. 28. The board is to make a decision at a March 28 BOE meeting, and public input is being taken at rezoning@sullivank12.net.


The meeting at the Wellmont Center for the Performing Arts will be streamed live via a link on www.timesnews.net, and the recorded work session and following public comments recording is to be available online Friday.


The most far-reaching scenario — which would save an estimated $2.9 million a year — would merge Sullivan South and Sullivan North high schools into one high school, with the other school building becoming a consolidated middle school for both high school zones.


Another scenario, which like the first would close Colonial Heights Middle and the middle school section of Sullivan Gardens K-8, is to move sixth-graders in the South high zone back to elementary school and the seventh- and eighth-graders up to South High. That would save about $889,450 a year.


The third scenario, in the Sullivan Central Zone, would close Central Heights Elementary and Blountville Elementary, merging all Central zone middle schoolers to Holston Middle and the Central Heights students to Blountville Elementary, which would use some of the former Blountville Middle space. That would save an estimated $844,150.


Students at Blountville Middle have used windows in the school to send a message they want their school to remain open.


“If we’re not comfortable with the proposal, we don’t have to vote on the 28th,” said BOE member Robyn Ivester, whose district includes part of the South, Central and East zones, the latter of which is the only one left out of all the scenarios.


She said input she’s received has included calls for any high school-closing proposal to be delayed two years and wanting more community input on the decision to merge high schools and the names, mascots and color of the new high school.


A Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association official late last week said a combined high school at North or South could compete under existing classifications and conferences for two years — even though the combined school could have about 1,500 students — as long as the current school name and school number were kept for two years.


BOE member Todd Broughton, who represents the North zone, said folks there and in the South zone want a public input session in their zones and not just at Central High School or Northeast State. He also said he wants transportation cost estimates not considered in the estimated cost savings.


“The time frame is moving too fast,” Broughton said.


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