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New Dobyns-Bennett 'front door' still set to open in August

Rick Wagner • May 15, 2019 at 1:51 PM

KINGSPORT — The more than $20 million Science and Technology Center at Dobyns-Bennett High School remains on track to open at the start of the 2019-20 academic year in August, school system officials said Tuesday, although the school board has voted for a recommendation that extends the architectural contract until the end of September.

Chief Finance Officer David Frye said the reason for a slight delay in getting the building ready for furnishings in late June or early July instead of mid-June can be summed up in two words: wet weather. However, Frye and Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse assured the Board of Education that the project, which also is the new “front door” for D-B, will be ready for occupancy when students arrive in early August to start another school year.

The BOE voted 5-0 to extend the contract with Perkins + Will, a document that technically expired at the end of April, until Sept. 30. The extension will cost an additional $50,000 on top of the existing contract for $937,500 to date. Upon questioning by board President Carrie Upshaw and other board members, Frye and Moorhouse assured the BOE that the new addition would be ready by the start of the new school year, although Upshaw said the “punch list” might remain for a while after that.

In neighboring Sullivan County, the more than $60 million West Ridge High School and $20 million Sullivan East Middle School have been delayed because of weather, with West Ridge to open in the fall of 2021 instead of the fall of 2020 and East to open in January of 2020 instead of the fall of this year. However, those are entirely new schools, not additions like the D-B project.

On other matters, the BOE in 5-0 votes:

— Approved the purchase of 11 pieces of food service equipment for nine sites at a cost of $129,368.32. The equipment will come from Tri-Mark Equipment Inc. through a purchasing deal with the Sourcewell Cooperative. Nutrition Services supervisor Jennifer Walker said the equipment in question needs replacing because its age makes it difficult to get parts and that in most cases it is simply worn out.

— Approved the purchase of 1,765 Chromebooks at the low-bid cost of $297,647.65 through Firefly, which is selling the Acer C732 machines for $281.95 each. Scott Pierce, technology supervisor, said the machines would carry a four-year warranty and be used for fourth, fifth and ninth grades. However, he said a new policy will be put into place in which the fourth- and fifth-graders will not take the Chromebooks home unless they need to do so and apply to their principal.

Pierce and board member Todd Golden said problems have included students damaging the machines and using them inappropriately at home, although Upshaw said she was concerned that students without a computer at home would suffer compared to those who have them. Moorhouse said the board would receive a report on the matter explaining the decision later.

— Approved the purchase of MathXL from Pearson for grades 9-12 math. Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Rhonda Stringham said the $62,643 purchase of digital courseware that goes along with print Pearson math books was about $700 a year more expensive than buying it through the traditional Tennessee purchasing agreement but would save money because MathXL licenses purchased through the state for students who later leave the school system can no longer be used.

The MathXL purchased through Pearson, however, can be reassigned to another student. The current math texts will be replaced by another adoption in 2021, and buying the two-year contract was less expensive than buying a one-year one, Stringham said. 

— Approved on first reading a new policy on alternative credits and a promotion and retention policy revision, both required by state law. The alternative credits policy will undergo a second reading in June, but the promotion and retention policy revision is final. It includes meeting a new requirement for a list of K-3 students who may be retained be made by Feb. 1.

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