What are the choices? Architects unveil updated site plans for new Sullivan schools, layout of middle school

Rick Wagner • Apr 18, 2017 at 8:47 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Imagine a two-story brick school with a metal hip roof and a porch, either square or a semicircle with a second-floor balcony, and other traditional arts and crafts type elements outside. Inside would feature natural light and include a movable wall between the gym and cafeteria, making for a space that can double as a theater.

Taking the lead from input given by school officials, leaders and students, that’s just what architects have done. And Monday night they gave the first public glimpse of such a school and an artist’s rendering and tentative plans for a new Sullivan County middle school.

The Board of Education also saw updated site plans for the new middle school near Sullivan East High School and a new high school near Exit 63 of Interstate 81. Artist renderings of the new high school likely are about a month away, according to an architect from LS3P, a national firm with a base in North Carolina that is designing both schools along with Kingsport-based Cain Rash West Architects.


Architect Mary Beth Branham of LS3P gave the board two options for the middle school, one with a two-story front porch or portico with a tradition hip roof and square edges, which Vice Chairman Randall Jones and members Jerry Greene, Mark Ireson and Matthew Spivey liked, and the other with a circular top, which board Chairman Michael Hughes and member Jane Thomas liked. Member Dan Wells was absent.

Because of the split, Branham said the architects would continue refining the two options as well as how much extra the round porch would cost. The round porch would mimic round roof features, but not the expensive-to-maintain domes at East.

However, the board gave its informal agreement that it favored the same “Option 2” site layout that the architects did for the middle school. That would put the athletic fields on the north end of the site, closest to East High that may use some of them, including an eight-lane track. It also includes space for potential expansion of the middle school and possibly a new elementary school on the same campus, although Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski emphasized that the elementary school is not in current plans. 

Branham went over the site plans, drawings and renderings after architect Dineen West of CRW reported that surveys, soil borings and phase one environmental reviews turned up no issues that would halt schools on either site.

West said the middle school site adjoining Weaver Pike less than half a mile from East had some borings that hit rock at 36 feet, and the ones at the high school site adjoining Lynn Road near the Shriner’s Temple had some that hit rock at 13 feet, but she said that is common in East Tennessee and can be handled with machinery and/or explosives or slightly changing plans if need be.

“It is very normal to hit rock in our area at these depths,” West said.

West also said the survey and geothermal reviews were fine and that the environmental review found no issues with the middle school site. Two gas stations and Waste Management operations adjoining the high school site were noted and investigated in the environmental report but are far enough away to cause no concern, West said.

The high school is to cost about $60 million, the middle school about $20 million. Also funded with $140 million in county bonds is a new front for Kingsport’s Dobyns-Bennett High School and a a new Vance Middle School in Bristol, Tenn.

Kingsport is buying Sullivan North High/Middle for $20 million and turning it into a city middle school. Sullivan South and Central high schools will become middle schools. 

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