Sullivan BOE chairman wants pool at new school

Rick Wagner • Updated Feb 27, 2018 at 8:43 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Having a pool at the new $60 million Sullivan County high school seems much more likely now than it was this time last week. However, the certainty and exact timing are still unanswered questions, as is the cost, which last year was estimated to be $5 million.

Two Sullivan County Board of Education members, Chairman Michael Hughes and Mark Ireson, asked architects last Thursday to do a design and cost estimate on a pool in a separate building for the new school off Exit 63 of Interstate 81. The request, to Cain Rash West and LS3P, came after pool supporters had spoken to the school board during public comment and more recently spoke out at the Feb. 20 County Commission meeting.

Original plans were to use the existing Sullivan Central High School pool, which is about 3 miles away off Exit 66 of 81. However, Marysusan Dougherty and other pool supporters argue that pool is not big enough for competitions that the new 1,700-student high school could host. Central is slated to become a middle school after the new high school opens.

“The architects are going to give us a stand-alone price for a pool,” Hughes said Friday, but he added that the board wouldn’t make a decision on whether to bid out the project until the winning construction bid for the rest of the high school project is received. That is projected to happen in June.

If the project is financially feasible in combination with the winning bid for the rest of the school or more funds are found, Hughes said the school board likely would ask the winning contractor for a price on the pool or bid it out separately. Hughes said he’s already had conversations with swimming folks and determined that the pool likely needs to be at least eight lanes to be suitable for competitions. Central’s pool has five lanes and dates back to the late 1960s.


No one spoke out against the idea of looking closer at a pool, although after last Thursday’s called meeting board member Jerry Greene said he wondered how many competitive swimmers the new school might have. Hughes estimated the swim team could have 50 members, more than would participate in many sports, and that he is sure a faculty member would become a certified swimming instructor so the pool could be used during school day physical education classes.

Sullivan North, South and much or all of Central zone students would feed into the new school. North’s pool has been unused and dry for years, while South and Central have pools and swimming programs. In addition, the South pool is used for swimming lessons and other community uses.

“I’ve always wanted one, and Mark wants one,” Hughes said, adding that he hopes a pool is built even if not by the 2020 opening of the school. “If I stay (on the board) long enough, we will have a pool.” 

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