Plan still moving forward for junior high schools

Apr. 16, 2014 @ 11:23 PM

At their monthly meeting Monday night, school board officials and Sevier County Schools Director Jack Parton discussed long-range plans to move to a junior high concept throughout the county in the coming years.

The conversation arose when Parton mentioned to board members that some students currently slated for attendance at Northview Academy could be bused to other schools instead, beginning with the 2016 school year.

That is necessary, Parton said, because enrollment at the new high school in Kodak has grown faster than was originally planned.

"We are one of the few school systems our size that allows school choice still," Parton told The Mountain Press after the meeting. "We refer to our growth in a particular community as 'hot spots,' and with the absolutely magnificent facility that we've built (at Northview Academy) ... they're excited about it — we had about 188 incoming freshman this school year.

"If that trends on up the next three years, we'll be up to nearly the maximum numbers, so we'd have no area for growth."

Parton asked during the meeting that the county consider a plan next month to bus some of the students on Allensville Road back to the Sevierville schools, and some on Boyds Creek Road back to Boyds Creek School.

"What we're trying to do is alleviate that (overcrowding) on the front end," Parton said. "So that the parents, one, will know what our plan is, as far the expectations for where their children will go."

The students affected will be seventh to 12th-grade students on Allensville Road, and middle-school students on the porton of Boyds Creek Road closest to Highway 66 who currently ride a bus to Northview Academy. Parton said those students would be free to attend Northview, but transportation there would not be provided by the county.

It's all part of a wider overcrowding problem the school system hopes to lessen over time with the move to junior high schools.

"Two years ago, the board itself voted to go to a junior high concept, where we would have a comprehensive 7-12 (facility) at each high school, where we've got seven, eighth and ninth (grades) segregated together and 10, 11 and 12 segregated together," Parton said.

That plan is still moving forward.

"The next school that we're going to build is the Seymour junior high," Parton said.

After that, the next planned construction would be in Pigeon Forge, where a new intermediate school would allow the county to turn the current middle school into a junior high.

Then the process would move to the Gatlinburg area.

"We'd take the students from Caton's Chapel, Pittman Center and Pi Phi and move the seventh and eighth grades up there (to a new junior high in Gatlinburg), which would alleviate the overcrowding at those three schools," Parton said. "And then at New Center, do the same thing – take the students from New Center and move them down to the junior high there."

Finally, the process would finish up back at Northview, with a new facility on the same campus as the new academy. It would house one half of the 7-12 population.

More discussion is expected in the coming months about the junior high plans, as well as about the future bus routes on Allensville and Boyds Creek roads, which could be brought for approval next month.

In other business, the board voted to:

  • Approve special courses at the schools, essentially re-approving the special courses that had already been in service in the county's high schools
  • Discuss expansion of four additional classrooms at Catlettsburg School and two new classrooms at Pittman Center during their May budgetary meeting
  • Adopt a series of policy revisions on bullying, harrasment, family leave policies and policies on student/staff relations. "Essentially this brings some of our discrimination and other employment and personnel policies up to date to make them line up with federal law, and state law in terms of cyber-bullying and some of our student harassment policies," said Chris McCarty, attorney for the school system. "We're not necessarily putting in new policies as much as we're updating our old policies"
  • Approve field trip requests from schools across the system
  • Approve the history and social studies textbooks approved by the county textbook committee
  • Approve a number of housekeeping items, such as the monthly teacher leave requests; the use of schools for outside activities, which had already been approved by building-level administration; and the previous meeting minutes

The next school board meeting will be May 13 at 4:30 p.m. at the Sevier County Board of Education.