With construction well underway on additions to two elementary schools, the Maryville Board of Education is looking ahead to its next new school.

A $30 million school with a projected opening in 2026 is the biggest item on a 10-year capital project list school board members reviewed during a work session Monday before their regular meeting, held this month at Sam Houston Elementary.

That means some major decisions ahead for the school board, primarily what that new school will be, perhaps a fourth elementary school or a second junior high.

Although the city charter requires the school board and city to annually create a five-year plan, schools Director Mike Winstead said, “We know that new school is out there on the horizon, so we wanted to do a 10-year plan to center everything on the planning and designing and the funding of that new school when and if it’s time to do that.”

Decisions about the new school affect other things the board will do in the meantime, he explained.

“Just as an example, if we’re going to build a seventh- and eighth-grade school, then we know Sam Houston needs to be fixed, renovated and probably expanded,” Winstead said.

“If we’re doing something different, like building a fourth elementary, to take fourth grade out (of the intermediate schools), then I think the focus might shift to the junior high to make sure they’re capable of handling eighth and ninth grade long term,” he said.

But as he sees it, “We’re going to have to build a school and expand one or two others when you get to 475 or 500 kids per grade.”

When board member Candy Morgan raised the question of available land, Winstead noted the options include buying land just outside the current city limits to be annexed or redeveloping an underused commercial space already in the city.

Other considerations include whether the community wants to wait until 10th grade for all the students to come together, as would happen if another junior high is built, Winstead noted, and whether they can provide equity in academics, athletics and fine arts for students in the same grades at different schools.

Board members said they would like a study to guide their decision-making.

Near-term projects

Looking at a proposed capital projects list for 2019-29, Winstead told the board, “We’re in a pretty good place. We’ve dealt with the most pressing issues.”

However, the list doesn’t capture every project. Winstead noted they still have more work to do at Montgomery Ridge Intermediate School, which various experts already have looked at. “They’ve moved the leaks, but nobody’s ever solved the leaks,” he said.

The district plans to open bids today for a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Foothills Elementary School. It is paying for the first phase of that project, and if the city covers the next $1 million in next year’s budget, the district could tackle many of the smaller projects on its list now planned for the next three years.

Those projects include replacing fencing at John Sevier and Foothills elementary schools, which currently are undergoing renovations, and extending the parking lot at Foothills.

The Maryville High School auditorium and choir space currently are on the list for 2020-21.

Athletic improvements over the next two years include an indoor hitting facility for softball, softball bleachers, track bleachers and to the football press box.

During the regular meeting Monday, the school board unanimously approved:

• Adding to PowerSchool the ability for families to update information electronically, such as emergency contact information, rather than using paper forms each year, at a cost of $18,316.13. Winstead said the district wants to still require families registering students for the first time to come to school.

• A two-year, $74,984 license from FileWave, which will allow the district to quickly send messages to laptops and iPads across schools.

• Purchase of a 2015 Toyota Sienna van for $21,951.45.

• The first reading of policies governing instructional programs, part of a comprehensive policy review the district has been doing. Winstead explained many of the policies had previously been only in student handbooks, not the comprehensive board policy manual.

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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