BLOUNTVILLE — What is to be about 290,000 square feet of inside space in the middle of what was a Sullivan County farm field?
If you guessed the new West Ridge High School off Lynn Road, off Exit 63 of Interstate 81, you were right.
County officials, including Mayor Richard Venable, Commissioners Angie Stanley and Gary Stidham, Director of Schools David Cox, and Board of Education members Matthew Spivey, Mark Ireson and Mary Rouse, visited the site on Friday.
Dineen West of Cain Rash West Architects led the tour inside the school, where the front portion is closest to complete.
All of the public officials who participated in the tour indicated they were impressed with the facility.
“This is going to be a state-of- the-art facility,” Stidham said, adding he was impressed by its flexibility to adapt to as-yet unknown future needs and that its football stadium will draw the attention of Interstate 81 traffic on game nights.
“This is going to be the billboard for economic development right here in Sullivan County,” Stidham said.
Venable said all Sullivan Countians, including those living in Bristol and Kingsport, “can be proud of this.”
“I think it’s an amazing facility,” Ireson said. “I like the science labs. The CTE (career technical education) areas are fantastic.”
Spivey, asked his favorite part of the school, said, “All of it.”
“To truly understand how big and modern it is, you have to walk through it,” Spivey said. “It’s so hard to visualize through a piece of paper.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Here are some facts about West Ridge:
1,450, 1,700 and 2,000:
- Projected student populations. Although the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA) recently declined the 1,450 estimate for purposes of football classification, bumping West Ridge up to Class 6A, Principal Josh Davis and other school system officials say the projected enrollment in August 2021 is somewhere between 1,900 and 2,000. West said the enrollment projections initially are 1,900 or more but that enrollment in a few years likely will fall to 1,700, which is the designed capacity.
- That’s what West said is the rough cost of the school, including property and athletic facilities, except for the likely addition of artificial turf on the football and other sports fields. The school is being funded mostly from $60 million in bond money the County Commission approved.
- the projected number of students who can eat at one time in the cafeteria, which will open up into a Learning Commons. West gave that estimate when asked how many students could eat at once, although she said a kiosk on the second floor of the building will provide food at non-lunch or non-breakfast times.
- the number of career technical or vocation programs available at the school. That doesn’t include a bank that will help teach business students but serve faculty, staff and students with regular banking services.
- the school’s address, as in 380 Lynn Road. Some commissioners, including Stanley, have long said the curvy, two-lane Lynn Road is not an appropriate main artery to and from the school. Venable said he’d like to see a secondary entrance off Henry Harr Road, even if it were just a gravel road. Tennessee recently completed a study of an extension of Airport Parkway that would improve access to the school, among other things.
- The new zip code for the school, which almost adjoins the Kingsport city limits but has a Blountville address. It is near the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, the old Sam’s Wholesale Club building, and a few miles from Tri-Cities Airport and Northeast State Community College, with which the school is to have dual-enrollment programs.