BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — Sullivan County’s two future schools — Sullivan East Middle and West Ridge High — are on track for their intended openings in January 2020 and fall 2021.

East Middle is slated for completion by the end of November, according to Dineen West, with Cain Rash West Architects, the firm hired to design the schools in collaboration with LS3P Associates. She updated the Sullivan County Board of Education during its Thursday meeting on the progress of both projects.

The middle school is close to Sullivan East High School off Weaver Pike in Bluff City, along the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. When it opens, it will take students from Holston Valley and Bluff City middle schools and students from the middle school section of Mary Hughes K-8 School. Earlier this year, the board approved opening the school midyear in January 2020.

The classroom wing of the building is nearly complete. It should be done by the end of October, West said.

All of the brick on the exterior of the school has been finished, and work to install rock accenting is ongoing. A bricklaying ceremony was held last week for school system officials, some students and others to write their names on bricks and lay them on the front of the school.

Ceiling tiles are being added on the second floor of the classroom wing, and crews have installed an access road around the building.

After the meeting, Board Chairman Michael Hughes said that he’s “really impressed” with how the middle school is turning out.

“I do not have a complaint,” he said. “The more I’m in it, the more it comes together, the more I like it. … It was well-thought-out as far as where we have meeting rooms for parents and offices for security and the way we’ll be able to let people in and out. It’s going to be a secure building, easy to watch. … The hallways are straight — no hiding places, easy to monitor.”

Hughes added that both schools will have bulletproof film on the windows and security cameras. He’s especially happy about the school being built in a way that will allow for future expansions, if necessary, he said.

Construction of West Ridge High, located on Lynn Road off Interstate 81’s Exit 63 in Blountville, is moving along as the building’s skeleton continues to take shape. Some of the walls are up, and foundations, underground utilities and steel beams are being installed throughout the back half of the building, where the gym, learning commons, cafeteria, band and chorus rooms and labs for career and technical education programs will be housed.

Workers also installed a parking lot, some entry roads to school property and a bus lane that will be used to drop off students. Some are a work in progress. Grading continues for the other parking lots and athletic fields.

The initial opening date for the new high school was set for 2020, but it was later pushed back to the fall of 2021 due to weather-related setbacks. Sullivan North, Sullivan South and Sullivan Central high schools will be consolidated into West Ridge by July 31, 2021, or as soon as possible after the certificate of occupancy is received, according to the board’s timeline.

“I can’t see the high school [building] — I don’t have that mental picture yet, but I like the way it’s been planned,” Hughes said. “It’s smart.”

In other business, the board reelected Hughes to serve as chairman and Randall Jones to continue serving as vice chairman.

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lspell@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2511 | Twitter: @BHC_Lurah | Facebook.com/lurah.lowery

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