BLOUNTVILLE — The intertwined Sullivan County and Kingsport facilities studies process, including a pending agreement for the county to transfer Sullivan North High School building to the city, may see some movement this month.
Kingsport Superintendent Lyle Ailshie and Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said a joint meeting of the city school board, county school board, city Board of Mayor and Aldermen and County Commission is being tentatively set for late September at Northeast State Community College in Blountville.
Rafalowski Friday said details should be nailed down the week of Sept. 7. Ailshie said it will be up to the BMA and commission to work out the transfer of North, including the exchange of money or other considerations.
“I’m hoping in September maybe all four” will meeting, Ailshie said Thursday.
“I think there is at least a common direction,” he said. “It’s a matter of fleshing out the details.”
He said Kingsport City Schools also has a draft RF! or request for proposals for architectual services for the first phase of the facilities plan.
The county study timeline calls for the commisison to approve an “intent to fund” resolution in October.
By Tennessee law, bond or borrowed money funding of education in a county is split among all public school systems in that county, based on the proportional share of students. The county school system would get a little less than 50 cents of each dollar rasied, with the Kingsport and Bristol splitting the rest based on their numbers of students.
In a nutshell, the county study calls for construction of a new high school in the Sullivan Central High area in four years, by 2019, with South and Central becoming middle schools and the renovation of Sullivan East High until a new school is built there in 2029.
“We’re not losing any students in that (East) area,” Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said Friday. “We’re gaining.”
North, South and some Central students would attend the new up 1,400- to 1,700-student high school, geared among other things to state-of-the-art career technical education.
A new middle school in the East zone also is planned, and various schools eventually would be closed.
North High, which also houses North Middle School, would not be used by the county but, with an agreement between the city Board of Mayor and Aldermen and County Commission, would be transferred to Kingsport for use as a new middle school, which Venable said is obviously the most controversial but crucial part of the county facilities study.
Kingsport’s plan would build a new science and technogy building at Dobyns-Bennett High School in the first phase, with later plans to close various elementary schools, build a new middle school in addition to the retooled North building and convert Robinson and Sevier middle schools into larger elementary schools or two schools sharing a building and things like the cafeteria.
D-B Principal Chris Hampton said he is anxious for the plan to be implemented because the city high school needs the room.
Bristol, Tenn., was not directly involved in the process, having done a facilities study a few years ago, but school officials there have well-known needs and a possible plan to replace Vance Middle school with that system’s share of county school funding.
However, Rafalowski said Bristol officials will be included in the discussions and invited to the late September meeting at Northeast.
In round numbers, Venable said the whole first phase would cost about $140 million and give all three systems much-needed funding, although the cities would have the option of adding additional local capital funding.
The facilities plan was driven by former Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie, who effective July 1 went to work as a superintendent in Albany County, Wyo.
After a joint county-city school boards meeting, the two systems and their funding bodies contracted with DeJong-Richter, a Ohio-based consulting firm headed by Tracy Richter, to do a $270,000 facilities study for the county and a $190,000 one for the city.