West Ridge sinkhole

A hole recently opened up in the football stadium at West Ridge High School. The hole, which school officials called a construction dropout, developed near the pole vault area of the track. It is expected to be repaired this week.

BLOUNTVILLE — West Ridge High School’s first dropout since opening on Aug. 9 is not a student but rather a hole in the ground set to be filled this week. As first reported last week, the hole is near a curve in the track surrounding the school’s football field.

School system officials said the hole that emerged around Aug. 18-19 should be filled by week’s end, in time for a possible ribbon cutting and open house sometime next week and before the first home football game on Sept. 3 against Science Hill High School.

The hole, called a construction dropout rather than a sinkhole by two Sullivan County Schools officials this week, developed last week near the pole vault area. It should be fixed by Friday if the weather holds out, said Interim Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski.

East Tennessee Turf and Landscape, the contractor that did the athletic area earthwork other than the turf, is fixing the hole, Rafalowski said. She said she didn’t know yet what the cost of the fix would be but that it would involve using concrete and a filler substance to shore up the hole.

“It will be fixed from what I’ve been told by Friday, pending weather,” Rafalowski said. “That area was disrupted by the track when they (construction workers) dug in to lay the track.”

The rubbery surface of the track has not yet been applied, but the track had been asphalted and the artificial turf installed on the field the track surrounds.

Rafalowski and Sullivan County Board of Education Chairman Randall Jones said the hole was not a sinkhole, which is a specific type of hole formation in karst terrain with limestone and clay soil common in East Tennessee, but a construction dropout, caused by surface water quickly eroding soil away after construction or earth moving.

After earth moving was underway in the summer of 2018, opponents of West Ridge alleged visible voids on the school site were sinkholes, but an engineer later said they were blast pits left from blasting that was used to clear rocks.

“It’s a construction dropout, and it is supposed to be fixed by the weekend,” Jones said.

He said if a dropout was going to occur, that location was much better than in the track lanes, other track and field areas, the football field or around building foundations.

A ribbon cutting was originally scheduled for the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 18, but that was postponed because of heavy rain.

Jones, who lives north of the school in the Indian Springs community, said he got 3 inches of rain around the middle of last week, while the National Weather Service reported more than 2.5 inches of rain on Tuesday at Tri-Cities Airport.

As for enrollment since the school year started on Aug. 9, Rafalowski said that number continues to fluctuate at West Ridge and systemwide but that West Ridge seems to have settled in at more than 1,900 students. She said it was 1,906 on Monday when the systemwide enrollment was 8,659. The school was designed for 1,700 students but projected to open with more than 1,900 and eventually trend down to 1,700.

Systemwide, the enrollment on Monday was 8,659, which she said was higher than the end of the last school year. The kindergarten classes systemwide totaled 630 compared to this year’s first-grade class of 573, she said.

Sullivan Heights Middle (a combination of Sullivan Gardens and Colonial Heights middle schools in the old Sullivan South High building) was 748, compared to an earlier estimate of 720 to 725. Sullivan Central Middle (combining Holston and Blountville middle schools in the old Central High building) had 563, and Holston Elementary (a merger of Holston and Blountville elementary schools) had 621.

The 20th day of school, to be Friday, Sept. 3, traditionally is the first count that matters for school funding purposes by Tennessee, although in many school systems enrollment after Labor Day, this year Sept. 6, also is considered a watermark, Rafalowski said.

Recommended Videos