Work continues on the campus of Sevier County High School, where a future junior high will also be located. The Board of Education recently approved a $23 million bid for the construction of the junior high.

SEVIERVILLE — A large group gathered at Monday’s Sevier County Board of Education meeting to speak against Core Knowledge Language Arts in the classroom.

Kodak resident Jerry Patton, secretary and treasurer of the Constitutional Conservatives, spoke at length against the program.

“The CKLA agenda is subtle and may well appear to be innocent on first reading; however, below the surface you will find an agenda to begin the process of creating little socialists,” Patton said.

“Already, by the time students graduate from high school they are in many, if not most cases, anti-capitalists. If we do fear for the future of our children, we must begin to reeducate and tell the truth about socialism and where it will lead us.”

The website for Core Knowledge Language Arts calls it a comprehensive language arts curriculum program for students in preschool through grade 6 that teaches reading, writing, listening and speaking skills while building knowledge and vocabulary in literature, history, geography and science.

Patton also did not feel elementary school is the place to be teaching comparative religion courses, proposing it only be taught at the high school level. He felt younger children have not developed critical thinking skills and the content is therefore inappropriate.

Patton said he was not attacking teachers, administrators and board members of Sevier County, but that he believes education will ultimately be based on the outcome of what happens at the local level.

Interim Director Stephanie Huskey, who was at her first board meeting in the role, shared the school system’s COVID-19 statistics. She said .9% of students are out of school in quarantine, while .2% of teachers are out on quarantine.

Huskey said it was a step in the right direction and will allow for the return of field trips to the Eugene W. Huskey Environmental Center in Pittman Center.

The school system also addressed bids for a number of construction projects around the county, including phase two of the Sevier County Junior High School, with a bid of $23,600,000 for a 101,000-square-foot building for grades 7-9. The bid did not include the cost of the parking lot that will be built behind the school. The board approved the bid with a 5-0 vote.

The board also approved a $582,042 bid to renovate the track at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School.