New Sevier building will bring big changes to the school community

Millions of dollars worth of renovations and rezoning of neighborhoods are on the horizon

SNAPPED AWAY. The old Sevier Middle will soon be gone, replaced with the former Sullivan North building. The current Sevier will eventually become an elementary school.

Cassie Probst

SNAPPED AWAY. The old Sevier Middle will soon be gone, replaced with the former Sullivan North building. The current Sevier will eventually become an elementary school.

John Sevier is undergoing a huge change. The school is moving to a different location with a lot more opportunities for students.

The former Sullivan North building will become the new Sevier Middle School. There are many differences between the old and new Sevier Middle. The school size has increased, there are more athletic areas, and there are a lot more classrooms for teaching.

Still, a lot of work needs to be completed to get the new school building up and running.

“Some of it will be things that you won’t see; things like the roof, and the HVAC system, the air conditioning, the heating, those sorts of things,” Andy True said. True is the Assistant Superintendent for Administration for Kingsport City Schools and currently leads the project to renovate the new Sevier.

There will be a lot of renovations that students will notice, too.

“You will be able to see things like new paint on the walls and new tile on the floor,” True said. “So, it’ll be a combination of cosmetic things, which are things that you’ll see, and also things that you won’t see that are more structural, but important for the school so that it functions well.”

One of the many renovations that the new school will receive is a splash of new colors around the school. Sevier’s colors are not represented in the new school right now.

“The indoor facilities, like the gym, are branded for Sullivan North, so we’ll go in there and change that and make it more kind of red and white and make it more Sevier,” True said.

Kingsport City Schools has planned to put out a bid to see how much the renovations on the new school will cost.

“We’ve gone through a process over the last several months to kind of design what we think needs to happen [to the new building],” True said. “What happens now is we basically put all that information out into the public so companies or contractors can look at that and say ‘okay, I can do that work for this amount of money’.”

Once that is done, KCS will have a better idea what the exact cost for renovating the building will be.

READY FOR RENOVATION. A classroom at Sullivan North illustrates how much work needs to be done to prepare the building for Sevier. The floor needs to be replaced, ceiling tiles are missing, and the room looks stripped down to bare bones. (Ben Culp)

At the new Sevier Middle, there is a regulation track at 400 meters, which is a breath of fresh air from the old Sevier track. At the current building, the track is old and a little short of 400 meters.

Matt Culp, 6th grade state Cross Country runner, is worried about the condition of the track.

“Some hopes are that the track [at the new Sevier Middle] will be better than the one we have,” Culp said.

True has said that the track will remain as it is and no renovations will be done to improve it.

“It’ll be used basically as it currently sits,” he said. “Really all of [the athletic facilities] are in pretty good shape. We actually are going to start using those this spring. Sevier is going to have their baseball team playing and practicing up there. Robinson’s softball team will be practicing there, too.”

At the current Sevier building, many of the sports teams have to share the fields and track, but that won’t be the case at the new Sevier. There will be a track, separate football and baseball fields, and a large gym.

Conner Mooney, 6th grade Track and Field athlete, is excited for the new facilities at the former Sullivan North.

“[I hope] there will be better maintained track and field, because I am doing field events for track and field,” he said.

Some students at Sevier are getting excited for the pool at the new building, but KCS plans to tear down the pool and make space for something else. Culp thinks that this isn’t a good idea.

”Why don’t they use the unused pool for the Sevier swim team,” he said.

The pool has been poorly maintained and does not appear to be able to be renovated.

At the current Sevier building, the lockers in the halls are not put to use. At the new Sevier, KCS has decided to get rid of lockers altogether.

“The reason why some of those are going to be removed is to create more space, more student space, to be able to be used in those areas,” True said.

This disappoints Blake Vaughn. who was hoping to get lockers at the new school.

“[My hopes for the new middle school are] that we get lockers and hopefully clean bathrooms and classrooms,” he said.

The main goal of KCS is to create more space for students, balance the enrollment between Sevier and Robinson, and create a better working environment for students by updating and freshening up the building.

KCS will also have to bring everything up to code, such as the “Americans with Disabilities Act”. The act, which was passed in 1990, came along after Sullivan North was built.

“Sure, there are certain regulations that, whenever you do construction, you have to bring up to code and so that’ll be something that the contractor knows when they’re doing that work,” True said. “That type of work will need to take place if there are any particular issues in those areas.”

The Board of Education has discussed adding gold to Sevier’s colors as a way to pay tribute to the old Sullivan North colors. Culp does not think that this is necessary.

“[The school colors] are fine as they are,” he said.

Even though some people think that adding gold to the school colors is a bad idea, Genesis Alston disagrees.

“I think it’s great to update the colors to make it look nice and new again,” she said.

Adding gold to the Sevier colors would be a big change; however, the Board of Education recently decided to keep the Sevier colors as they are.

The Board of Education will also decide whether the controversial mural in the new school will be painted over or not. The mural includes an image of Confederate general Robert E. Lee riding a horse with a larger scale Abraham Lincoln in the background.

The mural was a topic on the agenda of the Board of Education and they still have not come to a consensus as to whether or not to paint over the mural.

Mooney does not think that they should paint over the mural.

“I think they should keep [the mural] because it will give imagination to kids at the school,” he said.

READY FOR A CHANGE. More than half of the students in 7th and 8th grade believe Sevier’s current building is too old and crowded. A majority of students also believe a new building is a good idea for the school. (Katie Carmon)

With the added area of the new Sevier, students and staff are wondering if there are going to be any new classes for students. There could be more related arts classes or more advanced classes.

“I think they should not [add related arts classes],” Culp said. “I think we already have enough related art classes for the students.”

Alston disagreed.

“I think they should add an extra science class and an extra language arts class to help more students,” she said.

KCS also plans to redistrict Kingsport to change which neighborhoods will attend Sevier Middle or Robinson Middle. This will be a big change for many Kingsport families.

“There’s a committee that has worked together to start looking at that,” True said. “There would be some rezoning that would go on really across Kingsport to account for this. So, that committee involves a wide variety of people, including the city of Kingsport, so that we have the information from them on where people live and how that all works. Hopefully, we’ll have that work ready long in advance of when we would actually move in.”

Although there’s still a lot of work ahead, True believes that students and teachers can look forward to the move.

“I think what I would be excited about is the fact that  it’s the opportunity to be in a newly remodeled school, a school that’s going to be able to have some additional areas that we don’t have,” True said. “For instance, to be able to have a baseball field and to have some more outdoor areas than being in the middle of town right here [is a big deal].”

True is hopeful the new building will be something special.

“We’re going to be able to go in and do a lot of work on the inside of the building to really freshen it up, to do those renovations,” he said. “It’s going to be a really nice space for students and staff to be able to have.”