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New Middle Schools Requested From School Board

By Mike Steely

Middle school students in the Gibbs area are still bused to a school outside their area and the community is pleading for them to have their own school. Gibbs has an elementary school and a high school, but the middle school students are bused to attend a school out of their area.

Two Gibbs area residents reminded the Knox County Board of Education about this Wednesday and asked them to build a middle school for their community.

Joyce Harrell told the board that in 1991 the Holston High School in East Knox County was closed and then reopened as a middle school. She said that a majority of the students at Holston are Gibbs children even though Holston Middle is in School Board District 1 and Gibbs is in School Board District 8.

Harrell pointed out that the school system owns two pieces of property in the Gibbs community: one next to the Gibb schools and one just a few miles away. She suggested that Holston Middle School become a magnet school and that new middle schools should be built for the Gibbs and Hardin Valley communities.

Kasey Engle, also of Gibbs, had her son pass out documents to the school board showing the distance between the community and the middle school their children are zoned to attend. She said some Gibbs and Corryton parents are home schooling their children because there’s no local middle school.

“It takes well over an hour on an overcrowded bus and sometimes three hours in bad weather. They have a hard time participating in sports or other school activities,” Engle said. “We’re asking to be treated the same as any other community.”

“Building a new Gibbs Middle School is a top priority,” she said. Her son handed the elected Board a petition with more than 1,500 signatures.

“We hope you will put a new Gibbs Middle School on the capital plan,” she said.

Advocates for a Hardin Valley middle school also spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, telling the board that their section of Knox County is in need.

Kim Frazier, a 17-year resident, said the Hardin Valley area is a favorite of young families and is growing quickly. “The time has come to revisit previous studies, we are worthy of consideration for a middle school,” she said.

Kevin Crateau detailed the growth in Hardin Valley and said estimated growth in its population will “put the schools in our area at over 100% capacity.”

In other business during the school board’s public forum, Rob Taylor criticized the school system’s use of the Parthenon Group as advisors. A Bluegrass Elementary librarian pled with the board to hire more technicians at each school. She said that the school’s technical help is paid for by their PTA and asked the school hire some for each school and pay them from school funds.

Tanya Coats, President of the Knox County Education Association,  used the public forum to urge the board to revisit the teacher survey and working group concerns and asked them to call on her organization to help resolve the “war on public education.” She said her organization of teachers “is not respected by the school board.”