JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Johnson City school leaders are expecting the student population of its only high school to grow, and that has brought questions about the campus’ capacity for growth and school security.
A joint meeting of the Johnson City Board of Education and Johnson City Commission determined the school system would hire an outside firm to be determined to conduct a study on the long-term size, security and traffic flow of Science Hill High School.
The study would help the district determine how those factors will change during expected population growth in Johnson City.
Johnson City City Manager Cathy Ball said to expect population growth of 20,000 in the city over the next 10 years.
That led to questions about the capacity of the building to handle hundreds of new students.
Dr. Steve Barnett, Johnson City Schools superintendent, said the current student population at Science Hill is about 2,200, but said a maximum would be around 2,500.
Ball was asked about the chance the district would need a second high school with such rapid population growth.
“If the limit is 2,500, I would say that’s a high possibility,” Ball said.
An additional study will look at those factors for elementary and middle schools, but Barnett said this study would be solely focused on Science Hill.
“To see, space availability, space on the campus, how much room do we have to grow on that campus, when will we need to look at other options for school at the secondary level.”
The Science Hill campus sits next to the city-owned Freedom Hall and has roads and walking trails winding throughout it. Barnett said that has led to questions about school security.
“To have a study by an outside group to come in, look at the campus, how can you really limit the access, but also have access for those who need it,” Barnett said.
Leaders agreed school buildings themselves were secure but said it is access to the grounds that has become a concern.
“The buildings are locked. Could we be doing more to better know who’s coming and going? Absolutely,” said Johnson City Mayor Joe Wise.
School leaders agreed to some security changes in the next month. Barnett said a gate and fencing on Cotty Jones Lane could be installed before the start of school. He said that road would be closed during school hours, but open before and after school.
Dr. Ginger Carter of the school board had concern about the popular walking trails around the campus.
“You can park wherever. You can walk wherever. And that’s okay if it’s any of us, but a lot of the times I’m always thinking who is this, who is that?” Carter said.
Barnett said no immediate changes are expected to the trails, but the study would look at that.
“That’ll be part of our study. Does that path need to be moved or do we continue with the current model?” Barnett said.