Sullivan County BOE moves forward with design plans for new high school

BLOUNTVILLE, TN (WJHL) – A massive school consolidation plan years in the making is moving forward in Sullivan County, after the board of education approved design plans for a brand new high school.

It’s all part of a multi-million dollar school facilities plan, one that still was met with opposition by some local families Monday night. The county’s part of the deal is around $88 million.

That new high school will be on Lynn Road off Interstate 81. School Board Chairman Michael Hughes tells us the school will be dedicated to making sure students are college-ready once they graduate.

Monday night, the school board approved design plans for the multi-million dollar high school planned for the southern part of the county.

Renderings show what students will see as they walk up to the school. The school plans to focus on Career and Technical Education courses, with a goal to: “graduate students that are job ready in various fields,” Hughes said.

It’s also going to offer Advanced Placement courses, with an area dedicated to robotics.

Sullivan North, Sullivan Central and Sullivan South will close as part of the plan. Hughes said the changes are necessary for efficiency and declining school populations.

“In a few years Sullivan south will be down around 680, 690 students, North 4 something now…as those numbers continue to decline it becomes more and more difficult to offer quality programs,” Hughes said.

But not everyone agreed Monday night.

Parent, Joel Sanders spoke up saying he and over 200 other people have signed a petition to keep Sullivan South open, worried about distance students have to travel to the new school and class size increases.

“With the closing of the 3 high schools and combining them into one it’s not in the best interest of the students, it’s only in the best interest of the budget,” Sanders said. 

Hughes said students are the number one priority for the board, but he understands the concerns.

“Anytime you close a school, it’s an emotional thing, we understand that,” Hughes said.

But the change will benefit the community.

“I think in a couple of years from now people will be very pleased,” Hughes said.

The school board said they plan to put out bids for the project in December.

Meanwhile, a groundbreaking ceremony for Sullivan East Middle School will take place Friday. The new school, which will be located on Weaver Pike in Bluff City and will have room for nearly 700 students. The school– formed due to consolidation plans — will open its doors in 2019.

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