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School Board seeks more solutions to Farragut overcrowding

Searching for property, a look at Kmart and placing portable classrooms are some of the solutions to the Farragut High School overcrowding situation that the Knox County School Board is looking at, School Board representatives said.

Chuck James, 6th District School Board representative, said, so far, the decision has been made to place two portable buildings housing four classrooms at Farragut High School and one portable building at Farragut Primary School housing two classrooms at a cost of $135,000 each or $405,000 for the lot.

“It will help some,” James said referring to the placement of the portable buildings. “It’s not going to take care of the situation we have there.

“I talked to Roy Mullins and he told me that (he and his staff) were going to look at adding on to Farragut High School, get a price for that, and get a price for the Kmart building. We need to do something real quick. We can’t wait for 2008 to start a high school. We have to have something to relieve the overcrowding real soon.”

James said he was not in favor of acquiring the Kmart building because the overall cost could not be justified.

He said that the unofficial figures for the Kmart was about $450,000 a year to lease the building with a 10-year lease, bringing the total over 10 years to $4.5 million.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea because you wouldn’t own the building after the lease ran its course,” he said. “Then you would have to go in and make the building school worthy.”

James said when it was all done the schools system would probably have $8 million in the project. He added that the schools system could add on to Farragut High School for $8 million.

“I know they could build on for twelve million,” he said, “they built on for four hundred students at Bearden High School for twelve.

“I told Mr. Mullins I would like to just get a price of what it would cost to add enough for four hundred students at the high school. So, they’re going to do that and compare, then bring it to the board.”

James said that the school board is looking at every option.

“I think that we’ll have to build on a wing for ten, twelve classrooms before this new high school is built,” he said.

Brian Hornback, 5th District School Board representative, said, “It’s unfortunate that we’re in a situation where we’re having to put portables in the Farragut schools.”

Hornback added that if the schools system wants to avoid paying the $50,000 a day fines for being over the Basic Education Plan mandate of a 30-1 pupil/teacher ratio, “it’s one of those necessary evils.”

Hornback said that until he came to the board nothing had been discussed about building a new school to accommodate the rapid population growth in West Knox County.

“It was a year ago this month that I forced the discussion of the George Williams Road property,” he said, “and the reason was not that the George Williams Road was not the best property, but it forced the board to deal with the issue of a new high school, and no other board member prior to myself bringing that piece of property and forcing a public discussion of a high school, no other board member had dealt with it. We have at least gotten it on the radar screen and we’re trying to deal with it.”

Hornback said the board spent about $15 million renovating Bearden High

School to accommodate 1,800 to 1,900 students.

“Had the board taken that fifteen million and added another fifteen million, then we would have had a new high school in West Knoxville,” he said. “So, we’re having to find a solution for the former sins of the board prior to us.”

Hornback added that a 16-acre parcel of land adjacent to Farragut High School is available, which the schools system could probably purchase.

“That’s an avenue we need to look at,” he said. “If we’re going to live with the numbers the way they are for the next couple of years until something – property can be located and a building built – then we need to make more permanent solutions instead of temporary portables.”

Hornback added that the “temporary” portable solution has been in place at the Cedar Bluff campus for 30 years.

James added that there has been no discussion as to having “split shifts” at Farragut High School, but that “the forum generated enough interest that something’s going to be done.

“We would have to take the money out of capital somewhere and leap frog over projects that are on the books,” he said. “Perhaps delay Cedar Bluff, delay Gibbs. We’ll just have to see. Whichever one is the most important, we’ll need to start. And right now, Farragut being overcrowded is definitely, in my opinion, the one that needs to get started on.”

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