Kingsport Times News Saturday, July 26, 2014

Local News Education

Sullivan school study price just under $270K

May 2nd, 2014 12:05 am by Rick Wagner

Sullivan school study price just under $270K

BLOUNTVILLE — Nearly $460,000 in groundwork for Kingsport and Sullivan County schools' long-term plans is set to move forward this month.

Sullivan County school officials Monday will consider approving a contract of just short of $270,000 for a comprehensive facilities study by DeJong-Richter.

Director of Schools Jubal Yennie on Thursday presented the Board of Education the proposed funding resolution to be considered by the Sullivan County Commission at its regular meeting May 19.

A similar contract for Kingsport City Schools is to run about $185,000 to $190,000, Yennie said.

Under the proposal unveiled at the work session, Yennie said the school system would use its BEP or Basic Education Program reserves to pay half the amount, with the county commission coming up with the rest.

"I think the county commission is receptive to that," Yennie told the board during an almost two-hour work session. If not, he said the board could choose to use BEP reserves for all the study expense.

"There's no reason the county commission shouldn't approve this," BOE Chairman Dan Wells said of funding for a study to take a look at building conditions and capacities, demographics and community input.

A 2008 study that covered mostly facilities conditions and capacities with some enrollment projections cost the county about $138,000, Wells said.

Yennie said the lower city cost reflects the county having more school buildings than the city.

The county system of about 10,500 is losing students and has excess capacity overall, while the city system of about 7,000 is gaining students but is nearing capacity at some schools.

"We're not doing a joint study," Yennie said of a recommendation from City Attorney Mike Billingsley and county BOE Attorney Pat Hull. "I think we're doing two parallel studies, if you will."

The results and recommendations of the studies are to help plan out the future of Sullivan County and Kingsport schools for the next 10 to 20 years.

Yennie said the plan is for the county board to approve its contract and funding Monday and the city board to do the same at its regular meeting Tuesday, followed by a Board of Mayor and Aldermen vote later in the month.

A Futures Conference, sponsored by Eastman Chemical Co., is set to last half a day on May 16 at the MeadowView Marriott Conference, Resort & Convention Center.

Yennie said the conference would not cost the two local systems anything except the time and work of DeJong-Richter already included in the two studies. The city school system is using the event as one of five it has free of charge at MeadowView, Yennie said.

A draft invitation presented to county BOE members indicates that "district administrators, community members, civil leaders, teachers, students, staff parents, local leaders, business leader and other stakeholders" will be invited.

For the county, Yennie said 90 suggested individuals include two high school sophomores from each of the county's four high schools. The whole group is supposed to be 150, but Yennie said he believes the 90 county suggested individuals will overlap with the city's suggested individuals.

The draft invitation said DeJong-Richter "will assist us in facilitating" the conference and "help us articulate the educational needs of our schools in the coming years."

Although Bristol, Tenn., completed a similar study a few years ago, Yennie said Bristol school officials will be invited to the conference, too.

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