Career, arts & sports

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Mega school to boast mega band room, gym, CTE courses

By Damon Lawrence

School and county officials heard about the programs and facilities that could be offered at a new consolidated high school on Thursday.

“We can actually see what’s going to be in that school,” said Richard Foster, director of design for Lewis Group Architects.

The firm was hired by the Roane County Board of Education to work on the new school project.

“We’ve really been listening to the community to get a sense of what the community is really wanting out of a new high school,” Foster said.

The priorities, according to Lewis Group, are CTE (career and technical education), the arts, team sports, budget and schedule, assembly spaces and collaboration spaces.

“I think the thing that’s so attractive about this is the other stuff,” School Board Member Mike “Brillo” Miller said. “The technical side, the arts. Things that we’ve never been able to in this county provide the kids.”

Foster said the CTE wing of the school could include STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) labs along with space for students to learn about machining, welding, building trades, agriscience, culinary arts and nutrition, information technology and cyber security.

Foster said the portion of the school devoted to fine arts could include a 4,000 square foot band room, 600 seat auditorium and a performing arts lab.

“It would serve as a lab space for teaching theater,” he said. “Seats could come down, you could hold about 100 to 110 people probably in that space. The seats could collapse back and you just have a studio space that can be used for teaching chorus. You can use it for dance, yoga, cheerleading practice. It’s a multi-purpose space that has a lot of function.”

The gym in the proposed school could be built to hold 2,400 people with space for three full size courts when the bleachers are pulled back.

“You can hold practice for varsity, junior varsity and freshmen simultaneously,” Foster said.

With that much space, Board Member Danny Wright said the players won’t have to stay as late for practice.

“We can have our students out and home between 6 and 6:30,” he said. “Instead of having them wait around and having them come back to school for practice and getting home at 8:30 at night.”

The proposed school would be built to hold 1,800 students. None of the county’s current high schools are that large.

The new school could employ small learning communities, which Lewis Group said is a way to subdivide large school populations into smaller, autonomous groups of students and teachers.

“There’s several different ways we could do that,” Foster said.

One way he mentioned is by using a “house” or “academy” model.

“A grade based house would look something like this – your total student body would be divided into four,” he said. “You’d have four houses, one for each school. Sometimes you call those academies. Like a freshmen academy, you’d have a freshmen house. You kind of interchange those words if you want.”

“You can also do small communities around areas of focus and that’s like the academies we’re talking about,” Foster added. “Around science, or STEM, or health sciences, any of those sorts of things. You have smaller learning communities.”

Foster also mentioned a hybrid model.

“You’ve got your grade based house as well as your subject base,” he said. “I might be a freshman, so I’ve got my freshman class and I’ve got my principal and I’ve got my guidance counselor that knows me personally and my teachers, so we’ve got that community. But then I might be in the arts and so I develop a community there.”

Roane County Director of Schools Leah Rice Watkins said that was one of the things they heard during other meetings about the proposed school.

“The importance of those relationships with teachers, with principals, so there’s someone in the building who is monitoring how that child’s doing, having that relationship and keeping that connection,” she said. “This is one way to organize around that.”

The proposed school, which would be built near Roane State Community College, would serve the Kingston, Harriman and Rockwood communities. The high schools currently serving those communities – Roane County High in Kingston, Harriman High and Rockwood High, would close.

One thing that wasn’t mentioned at last week’s meeting was the cost of the new school.

“We’re still working on square footages within the building,” Lewis Group Vice President Todd Brang said. “You can’t really get any type of number until you know exactly just how large every space is going to be. We’re not at that point yet.”

Lewis Group designed Hardin Valley Academy in Knox County. That school is 275,000 square feet, according to information posted on Lewis’ website.

“This (Roane County’s proposed new school) is a larger facility than Hardin Valley,” Foster said. “Now what’s driving that is the large CTE department. That’s the heart of the school. Hardin Valley doesn’t have a CTE department.”