High school’s $3.75 million training facility ‘dream come true’

Published 2:35 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2023

By Buzz Trexler
Star Correspondent
Elizabethton Board of Education Chairman Eddie Pless calls the $3.75 million training facility unanimously approved by the board Tuesday night “a dream come true,” while Director of Schools Richard VanHuss sees it as another step toward a complete high school campus.

“I’d just like to thank the City Council for the past and continued support of our school system in everything that we do,” said Board Member Phil Isaacs, specifically pointing to the half-cent sales tax revenue currently designated for the school system. “I can’t say enough. It’s been a big blessing.”

“As, you know, earlier this year City Council voted to continue to give us that half-cent sales tax revenue and that was a huge step,” VanHuss said. “We’ve asked for that for years, and they actually approached me about, ‘Hey, do you think it’s time to do that?’

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“So, if that doesn’t speak volumes about the city, city government, and not only their trust in us, but they see all the great things that are going on and they understand the important partner we are in the community, in our development, and our progression as well,” the director said.

The 16,200-square-foot building to be built by Preston Construction Co. of Johnson City will include a 30-yard-by-30-yard section of artificial turf, an auxiliary gymnasium with a basketball court that can also be used for volleyball and other activities, and a new weight room that is larger than the one currently used underneath the visiting bleachers at Treadway Gymnasium.

The need for an additional weight room is evident, VanHuss said. “Every single extracurricular activity wants to use that weight room,” including the band and the color guard. “The intention would be to leave the weight room that’s there now. We can continue to leave that there and utilize that because the demands on that space have done nothing but increase over the years.

Athletic Director Forrest Holt thanked the board and said, “This facility, just like the stadium, is going to take our schools and programs to the next level.” Holt called it a “superior advantage to our students.”

“It’s a dream come true for a lot of people to see this,” said Board Chairman Eddie Pless, adding that the building “checks off so many boxes.”

While there may be those who think otherwise, the director said the training facility is not football-focused, that the additional space at the new facility will benefit the general student population in required physical education courses and other extracurricular activities. VanHuss said constructing the training facility will be taking one more step toward a complete campus that was envisioned more than 50 years ago.

The original design of the high school, which opened to students in early January 1974, included a larger auxiliary gym and an Olympic-sized pool. “All of those things were cut at the end of the project because of lack of funding,” the director said. When the new stadium was under construction, there was a lot of talk about how it was “kind of a campus completion,” VanHuss said. “But the reality is this project just probably gets us closer to campus completion when you talk about the square footage originally designed for the high school.”

Student Liaison Hannah McCoy, an Elizabethton High School senior, said she and EHS Principal Jonathan Minton recently talked about the training facility. “I believe that physical health and mental health are heavily connected,” she said, and the building will not only provide strength and conditioning facilities for athletes but will serve students who are concerned about their physical fitness but are not involved in sports.

POLICY, PERSONNEL ACTIONS

The board approved several changes in policies that VanHuss said would bring them more in line with the Tennessee School Boards Association with respect to credit cards and online payments, and security.

The board also approved the following new hires: Eilleen Knott, educational assistant, Elizabethton High School (EHS), effective Nov. 13; Timothy Dyer, systemwide bus driver, effective Nov. 10; Joy Lowe, central office custodian, effective Nov. 17; Jacob Morris, East Side Elementary School (ESES) custodian, effective Nov. 14; Maci Andrews, EHS assistant girls’ basketball coach, effective Nov. 29; David Misener, substitute teacher, effective Nov, 30; Jayden Laroche, substitute teacher, effective Dec. 7; and Haygen Sigmon, education support profession student leader, effective Dec. 7.

The board approved the following additional positions: Jeff Bohlke, EHS assistant softball coach, effective Nov. 21, and James Cable, EHS volunteer basketball coach, effective Nov. 21.

The board approved the following transfers: Jennifer Farmer, from substitute teacher to ESES Project on Track Math Interventionist, effective Nov. 27; Jack Bembry, from TNAC education assistant to T.A. Dugger Junior High School (TAD) interim social studies teacher, effective Dec. 4; and Christy Manning, from INT educational assistant to West Side Elementary School (WSE) SPED assistant, effective Jan. 8, 2024.

The board accepted the following resignations: Kaylee Anderson, EHS educational assistant, effective Nov. 28; Jennifer Lund, WSE educational assistant, effective Nov. 21; and Jeff Bohlke, EHS educational assistant, effective Dec. 21.

The board approved the following leave of absence: Megan Ellis, effective Dec. 4-March 1, 2024; Emily Harrison, effective Dec. 4-March 29, 2024; Sasha Malone, effective Jan. 1-March 4, 2024; Tonie Williams, effective Nov. 13-30; and Vickie Livingston, effective Dec. 5-April 30, 2024.

The board approved the retirement of Jason Carter, effective Jan. 2, 2024.