A bottleneck at the back gate of Heritage High School may be cleared with road work in the spring.

With no turn lanes currently in the area, vehicles back up on the campus and in both directions on Tuckaleechee Pike.

Last week the Blount County Board of Education approved spending $85,000 from its savings for work at the back entrance, but the Blount County Commission also would have to approve spending from the school district’s fund balance.

Blount Highway Department Superintendent Jeff Headrick said in a phone interview Friday, Sept. 6, he’d like to include turn lanes in both directions on Tuckaleechee Pike, as well as a left turn lane from the campus onto the road.

Power poles already have been moved back in the area, but Headrick said the plan has not been finalized.

The project not only will make it easier for vehicles to move in and out of the Heritage campus but also make the roadway safer, he said.

Fall likely wouldn’t provide enough time to complete the work, Headrick said, so with the commission’s approval it probably will be done in the spring.

During an Education Committee meeting Tuesday, Sept. 3, commissioners asked whether the back exit could be made one way out of the campus in the afternoon, but school officials explained that buses use that gate as an entrance and routing them to U.S. Highway 321 would cause delays.

July 2020 start

The school board also approved a 2020-21 calendar that will begin classes July 29, 2020, with registration July 24.

The Blount County Schools Calendar Committee juggled several issues in creating the schedule, including two days the schools will be closed for elections, Aug. 6 and Nov. 3, 2020.

Director Rob Britt asked the committee to maximize the number of instruction days before state testing in April, and the district is trying to spread professional development throughout the year, with about one day a month.

Fall break will be Oct. 5-9, 2020, and spring break March 15-19, 2021, both with a professional development day the Monday after the break.

The last day for students will be May 18, 2021, and it will be an abbreviated schedule.

As with other votes at the meeting Thursday, Sept. 5, the board approved the calendar unanimously, with board member Scott Helton absent.

Recognitions

The meeting began with several recognitions, including a proclamation from the state House of Representatives honoring the late Charles W. Finley, who not only was a BCS teacher, principal and school board member but also a coach for half a century.

The proclamation noted that Finley, who died last month, “made it his mission to encourage young people to reach their full potential.”

Babs Finley, his widow said, “He wanted teachers and schools to be the best that they could be because he thought that was the way for children to succeed.”

Hands went up across the board room when Chair Debbie Sudhoff asked in a voice choked with emotion how many people’s lives had been touched by Finley.

When the William Blount High School dance team was recognized later for winning a national competition, Coach Amber Young noted that Finley was her principal when she was in first grade and always kept up with her career and encouraged her.

Britt also presented a plaque to Terry Tipton, recognizing her 13 years of service as school board secretary before her retirement.

Tipton said Blount County Schools has been part of her life since she walked in the door at the old Prospect Elementary School when she was 6 years old, and she was thrilled to work for the district for 30 years.

The board recognized and presented $3,000 checks to five elementary schools the state recently designated Reward Schools based on student achievement and growth: Friendsville, Mary Blount, Middlesettlements, Prospect and Rockford.

Amanda Vance, special education supervisor, presented an award the district received for having a 100% job placement rate in its Project SEARCH training program for students with developmental disabilities during the 2017-18 school year.

Suspension upheld

The board approved hiring Rodefer Moss and Co. as the auditor for school funds.

Before the regular monthly meeting, the board considered a tenured teacher’s appeal of a 10-day unpaid suspension in 2018 and upheld the decision by Britt and a hearing officer.

Julie Small, a sixth-grade teacher at Union Grove Middle School, was accused of arriving late, leaving early without permission, keeping prescription drugs unsecured in her classroom and keeping food in a way that led to roaches in the classroom.

At the beginning of the board meeting, members voted unanimously to retain the same officers this year, with Sudhoff as chair.

Board member Fred Goins said he would like to have work sessions to discuss issues such as the budget and test scores, a comment echoed by member Diane Bain.

Board member Jim Compton said he will not seek reelection next year, adding, “two terms is enough for anyone.”

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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