Sullivan's new high school to be designed for safety, energy savings, accessibility

Rick Wagner • Jun 17, 2017 at 6:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — An abundance of glass in the front of Sullivan County’s new $60 million high school might be made more energy efficient as well as safer thanks to an Eastman Chemical Co. product.

In addition, architects are still tweaking how far down the wall the glass panels will go and looking at a second entrance to the campus, all with an eye toward safety.

Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski told the Board of Education during its Thursday work session with architects that an Eastman coating that makes glass more energy efficient and bullet resistant likely will be used at the school, which will be located off Interstate 81 at Exit 63. Her statement came after school board Chairman Michael Hughes asked about safety and security at the facility being designed by LS3P, a national firm with a North Carolina office, and Kingsport-based Cain Rash West Architects.


Board members also asked about the height of the wall underneath the glass panels, which architects said would be about waist high and would provide a place to get out of harm’s way in an emergency. During surveys and interviews, students expressed a preference that the building feature light, open and airy construction. The entrance is to be a two-story area enclosed almost entirely with glass on the north side.

“Right there at that entry should be that wow moment,” architect Mary Beth Branham of LS3P said of the entrance. However, with safety in mind, architects said the secure entry vestibule would require visitors to be buzzed in as at current high schools.

In addition, plans are for a roll-up garage door at the front of the building, to the northern side, to allow students in career technical education classes to bring in an ambulance, police car or similar equipment. That is why an ambulance appears in one of the school renderings the school board reviewed during the work session.

Another safety item is an extra campus entrance and exit. The preliminary site plans call for an optional or future entrance off Henry Harr Road in addition to the one off Airport Parkway. Board member Jerry Greene said that aside from providing better access in emergencies, it also would ease congestion at the start of the school day, the end of the school day and for sporting and other public events.

That entrance and exit also would be on the side of the site where the athletic facilities will be located. A football stadium, baseball field and softball field are proposed, as is a band practice field and baseball and softball practice fields that could be turned into playing fields in the future. Rafalowski and Hughes said someday expanding capacity with those fields, added to existing fields at what will become Sullivan Central Middle School and at Holston Elementary School, could allow the hosting of large-scale sporting events with a positive financial impact on the community and the school system.

Member Randall Jones suggested bidding completion of the alternative access from Henry Harr Road as an alternative bid to see if it is financially feasible. Architects said that would be good but also pointed out that access from that road could lead to issues where it connects into other roads in a rural area.