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McKenzie School District to move forward with multiple purpose facility

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OPPOSITION – McKenzie School Board member Karen Fowler ask the school board to reconsider the building of a multiple purpose facility at the Feb. 1 meeting. However, the board will continue with the project.

At the request of McKenzie Special School District board member Karen Fowler the reconsideration  of the multiple purpose facility at the high school was added to the Feb. 1 meeting agenda.

But at the end of the discussion, board members agreed not to reconsider with the exception of Fowler.

Fowler has been a strong advocate for building a K-8 school and scraping plans for the multiple purpose facility because in her words “it is not for all the children.”

Fowler said she was concerned about possibly having to borrow up to $4 million and paying it back over a long period of time since all of the school district’s ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds are already budgeted for other things. The architectural firm of TLM has given a preliminary estimate of about $2.5 million.

But Director of Schools Lynn Watkins spoke up and said a 12-year note could be issued with no penalty for early payoff.

“My concern is if we borrow money for that and move forward with a K-8 school there will be a conflict with two notes,” said Fowler who pointed out the multiple purpose facility is not a necessity while a new school is. The school district will no longer have a payment on the high school building note since it is being paid off this year.

Fowler again stressed that children are the school board’s first priority.

“We work for all students and this sports facility won’t be for all students,” she said. “Are we providing a safe environment for the students we have now?”

Board chairman Jon Davis said legislators would have to carry the notes to build a new school and that would mean at least two years away.

You can’t say it’s just for sports,” said Davis.

The facility will feature a 50-yard indoor turf field and will be used for practice by athletic teams and the band, as well as for physical education classes and various other uses.

Davis said it could be a problem getting legislators to carry a bill to raise property taxes to build $50 million in schools.

“You will have to have a community forum and you’ll have at least 5 percent of the people who will question it,” he said.

Davis told Fowler he had liked her earlier school building plan that she had proposed, but for now he was for moving on with the multiple purpose facility.

Board member Chad Brown said since the board had already voted to build the facility he was for moving on with it.

Board member George Cassidy said h felt the same way.

“We’ve already approved it without a tax increase,” said Cassidy.

Watkins said the school district has quite a bit going on at this time. He said there was over a million dollars in renovations going on presently.

In other business school board members:

• Heard the director’s report:

In response to it being school board appreciation week, Watkins voiced appreciation to the board members for the support and work they do for the school system. They were also presented various gifts from teachers and students. The resignation of Andra Herrin was acknowledged. Brittany Parham was employed as an educational assistant at the middle school and Jessica Rogers was hired at the elementary school  as the educational assistant. The following substitute teachers who included Alley Burnett, Molly Boucher, Jessica Chandler, Paul Conquest and Hensley Crossno were hired for the 2021-2022 school year.

• Passed the second and final readings on Policies 4.606 and 6.000. Policy 4.606 which concerns Graduation Activities says the director of schools shall develop procedures to ensure that students are recognized at graduation for nine different achievements that are mentioned in the policy. Students who complete requirements for graduation at the end of the first semester may participate in prom and banquet and graduation activities. Policy  6.500 which concerns Special Education Students says students receiving special education services shall not be restrained except as permitted by state law and regulations. The Director of Schools shall develop administrative procedures to govern three different situations mentioned in the policy. 

• Granted three high school overnight trips which were: March 27-30 – FFA State Convention in Gatlinburg, April 3 – 6 FBLA State Competition in Chattanooga, and June 20-24 – FFA Leadership Conference in Doyle.

• Approved amending the 2021-2022 school calendar to change March 17 to a regular school day. Watkins said the day school was closed for the football championship game in Chattanooga had to be made up because a stockpile day cannot be used for a sporting event.

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