TOUR: Board of Education members get inside look at West Ridge H.S.

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Friday afternoon members of the Sullivan County Board of Education got an inside look at the progress being made at the county’s new high school.

“This building was designed for the learning that’s going to take place inside of it. It does feature a lot of active learning. It’s not a ‘sit and get’ kind of school. It’s a school where kids learn by doing,” said Director of Schools, Dr. David Cox. “In some schools, the career and technical classes are off to themselves. In this school, they are actually a part of this school and they are woven throughout.”

The school will have several technical programs such as welding, auto tech, aviation, and culinary arts.

“We have culinary arts programs that kind of merge with the food service operation in the school so all of those things are located adjacent to each other,” Cox said.

There are also several students spaces throughout the school such as a cafe, learning commons and outdoor art space.

“We had lots of input from student groups – Number one on their list was natural lighting, windows and I think we’ve hit a home run there. I think we’ve capitalized on some of the wish lists that the students had,” said future interim Director of Schools, Evelyn Rafalowski.

Rafalowski was the director of schools when West Ridge was in the beginning stages, she began working with student interest groups on the project in 2017. She will serve as the interim director when the school opens this fall.

West Ridge High School will combine students from Sullivan North, Sullivan South and Sullivan Central.

“My heart is here with Sullivan County Schools and I know that we are in a transition this summer like none other… none other that I can remember since 1980,” Rafolowski said. “Having that insight, having that knowledge of our school district I think will serve us well moving forward.”

School officials have previously said the new building has the capacity to hold 2,000 students and that they are expecting around 1,700 the first year.

West Ridge is expected to be ready for students by Fall 2021.

The budget for the school is around $65 million.

“We’re pretty much on budget. We’ve gone over some out of our general-purpose budget to pay for some extra things that we’ve needed but we’re still in pretty good shape on it,” said Board of Education chair, Randall Jones. “We budgeted about $5 million for athletics but we’ve added some to it for turf and things like that… we haven’t put all the numbers down yet as far as extras that we’ve added.”

Lynn Road, where the school is located will need some work and additional access points will be added.

“The highway commissioner says he’s going to widen the road. He has permission and approval from the Sullivan County commissioners to go ahead and widen the road to 24 feet and that will go all the way around to Browder Road,” Jones said. “We’re taking a look at widening the driveway at Lynn Road coming in and of course the driveway we’re going to put on the backside next to Henry Harr [Road] will give us access to both ways.”

School officials hope students and their families will be able to tour the school in June and July.

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