Sullivan County Tennessee Closing and Consolidating Schools

compiled by Lewis Loflin

As young people flee job-poor, low-wage Tri-Cities Bristol and Sullivan County schools across the region are downsizing and closing. Part of Sullivan County's problem is annexation from Kingsport.

Quoting "Committee recommends new Sullivan County high schools" December 18th, 2014 by RICK WAGNER:

A need for a fresh, equitable new start and more unified system is why some members of the Sullivan County Facilities Study Steering Committee Tuesday night said they have chosen two draft options that involve building two new Sullivan County high schools and turning the existing schools into middle schools.

"They (Kingsport school leaders) like the drama and want to have it," one member said of the North-South discussions and a more than decade-long question of possibly closing North as its enrollment dwindled, partly because of annexation by Kingsport that also has affected South's enrollment.

A proposal about two years ago to close either North or South and use the remaining school as a middle school for both zones ignited a public firestorm. That was followed by the facilities study and putting any school closing scenarios on hold.

Quoting a 2008 report from the Kingsport Times-News:

Total enrollment in the county's school system stands at 12,019 � down roughly 800 students since 2002.

For the 2017/2018 school year, enrollment is project to be somewhere between 9,729 (a decrease of 2,260 students) and 12,006 (a decrease of only 13 students). Those are the "low" and "high" projections from the study. The "moderate" projection, deemed �most likely� by those producing the study, is for an enrollment of 11,011 that year (a decrease of 1,008 students).
Lynn Garden School

Lynn View school on the market again

K-6 students who attended Lynn View will be bused to ri-Cities Christian Schools' Bristol campus. Tri-Cities Christian Schools' Kingsport area campus, the old Lynn View Middle School, will be going on the real estate market after it closes next month.

However, school officials hope to keep using the Sullivan County-owned football field for the TCCS Eagles football team this fall. The campus serving the greater Kingsport area houses K-6 plus day care in the 82,000-square-foot building, once home to Lynn View High School.

As part of a plan that eventually will consolidate all Tri-Cities Christian campuses but one to the Blountville location, elementary classes will cease at the old Lynn View Feb. 13, with day care following Feb. 27.

While TCCS chairmen Wes Rosenbalm says, "We have a flourishing academic institution" the problem is the more than 800-student system can't get stable financially because it has too many buildings with too much overhead from utilities and maintenance...

Temporarily, the K-6 students who attended Lynn View will be bused to the Bristol, Tenn., campus, although attending the Johnson City campus also is an option for some. However, after the school year ends in May, the Bristol and Johnson City campuses will close.

Come fall, all students from those campuses, as well as Kingsport, will be bused to the Blountville campus, near Tri-Cities Regional Airport...

The Sullivan County Board of Education voted in February 2003 to close the school, and it last housed county students in May of that year. TCCS began leasing the building, with an option to buy, and used the building as a K-6 and added the day care.

By the 2005 deed transfer TCCS had made lease payments on the structure for almost two years and spent about $253,000 on the building and had another $60,000 of in-kind contributions and donations for the building. Ref. Times-News January 2009.

Update Feb. 6 2009: The Kingsport Times-News reports that Sullivan County has an option to buy the school back. They have 60 days as of this posting. In my view there really doesn't seem any real use for the school other than preserving it.

May 18, 2009: Sullivan County commissioners voted unanimously to waive their right to first refusal to buy back the old Lynn View Middle School building Monday. The move will allow the city of Kingsport to purchase the property from Tri-Cities Christian Schools, who closed the doors at the campus back in February. Kingsport plans to spend $100,000 to help upgrade the ball and sports fields in the first year.

Sullivan to discuss closing schools

Sullivan County school officials Thursday will continue to ponder closing three county schools, including Cedar Grove Elementary near Kingsport, and making a "school within a school" at Sullivan North High School...Other scenarios under consideration would rezone students from Colonial Heights Middle School to Sullivan Middle...

(This) would save the system almost $1 million based partly on data from a recent $50,000 study funded by the County Commission and conducted by the Knoxville/Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission and Knoxville/Knox County Housing Authority, which looked at the condition of the system's buildings and enrollment

projections... The County Commission has gone on record in support of the idea to issue $50 million in bonds for school construction and renovation. Late Commissioner Ralph Harr of Bristol spearheaded that vote. School board will not take any action on the proposals until March. (Extract Times-News Jan.28, 2009.


Sullivan County Board of Education discusses closing, consolidating schools to save money


BLOUNTVILLE - Closing and/or combining schools may be necessary to open any school doors in Sullivan County next year, school officials said Monday. Facing a $6 million to $8 million shortfall for 2002-2003, the Sullivan County Board of Education got its first look at a host of options for cutting expenses during a retreat Monday. "

Most of these things are controversial - they bring about changes in the communities that people typically don't like," said BOE member Jack Bales. "But they're things that are going to have to be done if we protect the integrity of the system as a whole."

Sullivan County School Superintendent John O'Dell said the proposals filling a notebook were "only options." "I'm not making any recommendations today," he said. "There are benefits and consequences to all of these.''

O'Dell said it is his goal to reduce staff by attrition. He said when a proposal calls for "reduction" of teaching positions, those teachers will have other slots to move into due to the high number of school employees that retire each year.

Most options were presented for reorganizing the North zone. Many options were presented to close and combine schools including closing Lynn View and moving only the county students - approximately 83 - to Ketron for a proposed savings of $270,000 in personnel alone. There are 129 Kingsport City students at Lynn View Middle School.

Options included moving seventh- and eighth-graders to Sullivan North High School while making Brookside a special education school, Kingsley a K-3 school and Ketron a 4-6 school.

Another option included making Cedar Grove a K-2 school and Gravely a 3-5 school, which would reduce six teaching positions. If the BOE chooses to close Lynn View, Gravely and Cedar Grove, the proposal would be to move seventh- and eighth-graders to North, make Kingsley a K-2 school and Ketron a 3-6 school.

Options also included closing Lynn View and Cedar Grove and moving eighth-graders to North, making Gravely, Kingsley and Brookside K-3 schools and making Ketron a 4-7 school, as well as closing Lynn View, Cedar Grove and Brookside while moving seventh- and eighth-graders to North, making Gravely and Kingsley a K-2 school, making Ketron a 3-6 grade school, and making Brookside a special education school. "I

'm not for closing schools," said Alvie Bright, BOE member in the North zone. "We closed schools in 1985, and if you look at the budget for the next year we didn't save a damn penny.'' "There's a lot could be done by rezoning,''

Bright added. O'Dell said rezoning would help equalize numbers in schools but would not save the system any money. "We've got to make some very tough decisions,'' said BOE member Charles Bridwell. "We've got to do something."

O'Dell agreed and called on board members to work together. "I can tell you, you all are not going to agree on everything,'' he said. "A lot of people out there are going to be mad, but we can't bury our heads in the sand. We don't have enough money to operate.''

Next year is also an election year, with three of the BOE's seven members up for re-election - Bright, Larry Harris and Jerry Greene. Bridwell and other members said it will be important to "educate taxpayers" about the "magnitude of the deficit" the system is facing.

Other options presented by staff to the BOE include:

  • Closing East Cherokee Elementary. The school has 19 students, and officials estimate it costs about $13,000 per student to run the school.
  • Reorganizing Emmett and Valley Pike elementary schools. This would include making Emmett a K-2 school and Valley Pike a 3-5 school. This plan would cut five teaching positions.
  • Rezoning Akard and Blountville to reduce the overload at Blountville Elementary School. This could result in needing fewer teachers to meet BEP requirements.
  • Reorganizing Blountville Elementary into a K-3 school and Akard Elementary into a 4-5 school. If Bristol City students are not included, the combination cuts three teaching positions.
  • Redistribution of grades and students by making Akard a 3-5 grade school, Blountville a K-2 school, sending Indian Springs fifth-graders to Holston Middle School, and rezoning Colonial Heights and Sullivan middle schools.

Proposals for cuts in academics include eliminating grants that require up-front money by the system that is reimbursed later due to the "nightmare" it causes with cash flow, eliminating non-mandated programs like driver's education, reducing vocational schools from four to two, reducing fine arts, and contracting with Northeast State Technical Community College to offer trade classes. O'Dell said there is nothing left to be cut in supplies, equipment and textbooks. "In my judgment if we reduce this any more, we reduce the quality of instruction,'' he said.

Shifting the cost of athletics to families was also discussed. The system pays approximately $415,000 in middle and high school coaching supplements a year. Cutting vending machines out of school that cost the system $36,000 a year in electric bills to run was discussed, but O'Dell said it is a "double-edged sword" since principals use the money from the machines to buy paper and copiers and other supplies for their schools. Closing the adult high school and the GED program at an estimated savings of $224,000 a year was also presented.

The BOE set a timeline for making budget decisions including discussing the options at its January meeting, then inviting the three chairmen of the standing County Commission committees and state legislators to hear its proposal. O'Dell and BOE members will present the options to the full County Commission in February while also meeting with PTAs. The BOE will likely vote on the options in March.

Copyright 2001 Kingsport Times-News