Sullivan BOE goes old school, then new school in work session

Rick Wagner • Sep 29, 2017 at 7:40 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Out with the old and in with the new were front and center on the agenda of Sullivan County school officials Thursday.

At the same non-voting work session, the Board of Education and Director Evelyn Rafalowski discussed the disposal of the former Weaver Elementary School, once it is formally declared surplus, and the likely mid-November groundbreaking for the new Sullivan East Middle School.

— Weaver is a  nearly 100-year-old school that the board closed in May after an engineer said an addition was structurally unsound. Rafalowski said she has already been contacted by two adjoining private property owners and a church that has a cemetery next to the school property about possibly purchasing parts of the Weaver campus.

The school is in the East High zone and its original section dates to 1921. At Monday’s school board meeting, which will start at 6:30 p.m. in the first-floor meeting room of the health and education building off the Blountville Bypass, Rafalowski plans to recommend the board vote to allow its Executive Committee, composed of Chairman Michael Hughes and her, to talk with those interested in the property to discern their level of interest and see if those interests could coexist if the property is split multiple ways.

Then, she said, they would put together a potential option or options to dispose of the property.

— East Middle, on the other hand, soon will be under construction and likely will have a groundbreaking at noon on Nov. 10, at a site about a mile from the East High campus and along Weaver Pike. It is to open in the fall of 2019, taking the place of Bluff City and Holston Valley middle schools and the grades 6-8 portion of the K-8 Mary Hughes School.

The $20 million project is being funded by a portion of a $140 million countywide bond issue for school capital projects, as is an as-yet unnamed new $60 million high school near Exit 63 of Interstate 81 to open in the fall of 2020. The board recently approved the East Middle name after it was the top pick in an online survey from among five options a committee chose. The mascot and colors, Patriots and red, white and blue, are the same as East High.

In other action, the board discussion of voting items Thursday night included:

Amending the 2017-18 budget to make up for the loss of 5.5 cents of county property tax rate revenue. The budget would have been short $1.432 million, Business Manager Ingrid Deloach said, but the County Commission increased a payment of $300,000 for non-school use of school facilities by the public to $1.3 million and changed the line item from a contribution to a lease/rental fee.

DeLoach said that means the money still doesn’t have to be shared with the Kingsport and Bristol school systems, which lost about $1.7 and $1 million respectively. It also means the $1.3 million is subject to future maintenance of effort requirements from the state in perpetuity. Deloach said the difference between $1.432 million and $1.3 million was made up by taking about $119,000 from the fund balance and making modest revenue increase projections in other revenues. However, Rafalowski said the school system would do its level best not to spend the $119,000.

And approving the United Way Sports Pass, which gives each Eastman Chemical Co. employee who donates to United Way free entry to all school regular season sporting events except varsity football.