$140 million of school construction projects: Looking ahead to 2018 and beyond

Rick Wagner • Dec 31, 2017 at 1:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Thanks to a December 2016 vote by the Sullivan County Commission, the culmination of more than two years of facilities studies, planning, community input and debate, several capital projects among four local school systems are or soon will be underway. 

The commission voted to fund more than $140 million in countywide bonds for school projects, with the money to be split among the three systems in the county, based on their proportional share of students, as well as the Johnson City system. More than $67 million is going to the county schools; about $45.7 million to Kingsport schools; some $27 million to Bristol schools; and slightly more than $520,000 to Johnson City schools. (Johnson City annexed into Sullivan County, but operates no schools there.)

Kingsport plans

The Model City’s projects include the Regional Center for Science and Technology at Dobyns-Bennett High School, a $20 million addition to D-B that also will be a new front entrance to the facility. Groundbreaking took place earlier this month, and the completion date is set for March 2019. Construction is to start in January.

In addition, Kingsport City Schools plans to convert Sevier Middle School into an elementary facility after what is now Sullivan North High/Middle School takes its place. Jackson Elementary School will be closed when the conversion of Sevier is complete. The city bought North from the county for $20 million, with the transfer to be effective no later than 2020. The city system plans to renovate North and open it as a middle school in the fall of 2021.

A survey about the colors, name and mascot for the new middle school and the existing Robinson Middle will remain online and accessible via a link on the school system website, k12k.com, until Tuesday.

Sullivan County plans

Sullivan County Schools officials hope to have a groundbreaking for the $60 million, 1,700-student high school off Exit 63 of Interstate 81 in January or February. The facility will be visible from I-81 and replace the current Sullivan South and North high schools and encompass much, if not all, of the Central High zone. Some current Central zone areas may be reassigned to East High.

The facility is to open in the fall of 2020. An online survey about the name, mascot and colors will be coming soon.

Central and South are to becoming middle schools. County schools that will close include Colonial Heights Middle and the middle school portion of Sullivan Gardens K-8, which will be funneled into the South building while students from Blountville Middle School are to be among those funneled into the Central building.

Also, this fall the county broke ground on the $20 million Sullivan East Middle School about a mile from Sullivan East High on Weaver Pike. That facility is to be completed in the fall of 2019. Students from Bluff City and Holston Valley middle schools and the middle school portion of Mary Hughes School, a K-8 facility, will attend the new school, which will have red, white and blue colors and the Patriot mascot, just like East High.

Bristol and Johnson City plans

Bristol Tennessee Schools officials plan to use bond proceeds for a new Vance Middle School, according to Director Gary Lilly. He said a facilities study and a follow-up facilities study both found a new Vance to be the system’s No. 1 need. A request for qualifications for architects is due in January, and he said the system could retain an architect by late January.

Meanwhile, Johnson City Schools officials will use that system’s share of the money on a roughly $10 million project at Liberty Bell Middle School. 

“The board included that in the money we will use to pay for the gym and cafeteria addition at Liberty Bell Middle,” Superintendent Steve Barnett wrote in response to an email question.

With an architect chosen, school and city officials have indicated the groundbreaking on that project could take place between June and Labor Day of 2018. 

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