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Kennedy Elementary could be rezoned to Sevier next fall

Rick Wagner • Oct 8, 2019 at 1:21 PM

KINGSPORT — Kingsport school board members got a history lesson Monday on the school system’s facilities plans, including a potential early twist of rezonings to come.

The board saw a revised timeline for the takeover of Sullivan North High School as the new Sevier Middle School — slated to open in the fall of 2022 because Sullivan County’s West Ridge High School got delayed a year — and the possible rezoning of Kennedy Elementary from Robinson to Sevier before Sevier moves to its new location.

The Board of Education’s annual retreat, held at the Eastman Planning Center near Bay’s Mountain, included the updates for new board members Julie Byers and Jim Welch and President Carrie Upshaw, Vice President Eric Hyche and Todd Golden.

WHAT IS PHASE I?

The updated Phase I of the three-phase 15-year facilities plan, accepted but not adopted by the school board in 2016, includes Dobyns-Bennett High School’s new Regional Science and Technology Center, which opened in August, as well as the takeover of the already-purchased Sullivan North High/Middle no later than the summer of 2021 and then its renovation and conversion to the new Sevier Middle School. The current Sevier would become the new Jackson Elementary, with the current Jackson location closing. 

Upshaw said she’d like to see the old Jackson site turned into low-income apartments like the Washington Apartments downtown.

The other two parts of Phase I are the renovation and maintenance of D-B and renovations of D-B EXCEL. Those were initially budgeted at $8 million and $500,000, respectively, but Chief Financial Officer David Frye said only about $2.5 million is left from the city’s share of $140 million in Sullivan County bond proceeds after the $22 million science center and purchase of North for $20. The system also would have to renovate North, which officials said could run substantially more than an originally budgeted $5 million.

Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said he plans to set up a joint school board and Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting to talk about future capital needs in the school system.

“Our average building is right at 70 years old,” Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True said.

HOW ABOUT PHASES II AND III?

Phase II, with no money to fund, would be a new middle school estimated at $35 million or renovation of an existing county school never acquired, renovations at Adams and Washington elementary schools and conversion of Robinson Middle into an elementary school, which would house a combination of Lincoln and Jefferson elementary schools, which would close.

Phase III, also with no money to fund, would be a new elementary school costing $13.5 million to replace Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary schools, which would close.

Golden said he would like to see a serious discussion with city leaders about building a new elementary school in a community like Adams, the city’s newest, which was put in the Rock Springs area 11 years ago. He said one option would be a new elementary school in the Cook’s Valley section of Kingsport, which was where the new elementary was going to be built before developers donated land for Adams.

WHAT ARE REZONING PLANS?

Chief Student Services Officer Jim Nash said that the tentative plans, subject to school board approval, are to do a citywide rezoning.

Currently, Washington, Roosevelt, Jackson and Lincoln elementaries feed into Sevier, while Kennedy, Jefferson, Johnson and Adams elementaries feed into Robinson.

The plan, after the new Sevier opens, is to move Kennedy to Sevier along with Washington, Roosevelt, Jackson and part of Jefferson. That plan would leave the other part of Jefferson at Robinson along with Johnson, Adams and Lincoln. 

However, going ahead in the fall of 2020 instead of 2022 and moving Kennedy from Robinson to Sevier would help the overcrowded Robinson and under-utilized Sevier become closer in student population. Robinson this year is at about 1,016 students. Sevier is at 771.

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