The Blount County Board of Education this week approved spending $2.04 million on improvements to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Heritage High School.

The work will focus on the primary air ventilation system, bringing outside air in, exhausting air and the associated controls to keep the building pressurized, dry and comfortable.

“Given the current situation with COVID, those systems are very, very important,” Owen Nevader, a comprehensive solutions leader for Trane, told the school board at its Oct. 1 meeting.

The $2.04 million covers only Phase 1A of work expected at Heritage under current renovations. An anticipated Phase 1B would continue work begun in 2016 on classroom units. “We’re kind of picking up the pieces from that,” Nevader said.

Work on the first phase will be done on nights and weekends during the school year. “We’ll be done with this phase before the summer gets here,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

During the past school year, Trane worked on HVAC systems at William Blount High School, primarily in common areas. Equipment replaced at William Blount was part of the original construction of the school, which opened in 1979.

Having the high schools’ primary ventilation systems working fully at current-day standards “is the most reasonable precaution a school could take,” Nevander said when asked about the impact during COVID-19.

The board this week also approved tenure for 25 teachers. Because of school closures this past spring, their evaluations from 2018 and 2019 determined eligibility.

Those receiving tenure are: Sarah Adams, Isaac Bradshaw, Kaylee Christenberry, Megan Claycomb, John Dalton, Carolyn Dudek, Hailey Elrod, Lucas Hall, Kelly Haun, Amanda Hendricks, Hope Hixon and Ashlee Ivens.

Also Janella Kilgore, Tara Kimsey, John March, Bethany Maynes, Savannah McKee, Kelly Mikell, Kristi Mitzell, Amber Monroe, Kerri Rippetoe, Justin Rutherford, Karly Stache, Jennifer Walker and Elizabeth West.

Chair Robbie Kirkland and board member Diane Bain volunteered to serve on a Collaborative Conferencing Committee with two members of the Blount County Education Association. Assistant Director David Murrell said 228 of 785, or 29%, of certified teachers signed a petition to continue discussing terms of employment under that format; only 15% is required.

In other action, the board approved the bid of Mayfield Dairy Farms LLC for supplying ice cream to schools.

In final comments during the meeting, board member Fred Goins said he’d like the board to consider in coming months providing a “stimulus package” for schools that have not been able to bring in enough money through fundraisers this year with the COVID-19 precautions.

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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