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Board approves $1.1M for renovations

By Keeli Parkey

What the Unicoi County School System’s top official described as a “vital” component of the system’s return to four Kindergarten through fifth grade (K-5) campuses, took a big step forward last week.

During a called meeting on Tuesday, March 29, the Unicoi County Board of Education unanimously awarded a $1.1 million bid for renovations to Temple Hill Elementary to Preston Construction of Johnson City. These renovations will allow the school to serve the school system for years, Director of Schools John English said.

“Architecturally, the Temple Hill building is sound,” he added. “We have had engineers and architects look at it. These renovations will give us 15 years or longer in that building.

“We have to have the space due to the K-5 consolidation, and Temple Hill is vital to that. We couldn’t make this move without Temple Hill. It comes down to understanding that our county is not, and will not be for the foreseeable future, ready to build a new school.”

English said the “long overdue” renovations include a new roof, new wiring, a new gym floor, bathroom renovations  and the installation of a new HVAC system.

“The current roof is 28 years old and beyond its lifetime,” English added. “The wiring in that school is original, which means it is 66 years old. That is a safety issue.

“The current gym floor is in bad shape and there have been a lot of condensation problems with it, so they are going to install a vapor barrier under the new gym floor.

“Yes, $1.1 million is a lot of money, but the building needs a lot of work,” English continued. “To keep that school viable, this work needed to be done. These are necessities to keep the building functioning.”

Temple Hill will be home to approximately 140 students beginning next school year, according to English.

The renovations are expected to begin at the end of this school year and should be complete by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.

“Unless there are unforeseen delays, they are expecting to complete the work before school starts,” English also said.

The system is using the remaining $1.1 million of the $4 million it received in insurance funds from the closing of Love Chapel Elementary to fund the cost of the Temple Hill renovations, according to English. The other funds were used three years ago to move Love Chapel to the modular campus on Mohawk Drive in Erwin.

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The Board of Education unanimously voted to close Unicoi County Intermediate School and return all of the county’s elementary schools to K-5 campuses during a meeting on Feb. 11. Beginning in August, all K-5 students will attend either Rock Creek, Temple Hill, Love Chapel or Unicoi Elementary.

A sinkhole found on the original campus of Love Chapel in August 2012 led to the permanent closure of that building. Before moving to the modulars in August 2013, Love Chapel classes were held at Unicoi County Intermediate School and Unicoi County Middle School during the 2012-2013 school year.

The former intermediate school building will be the new home of Love Chapel beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.