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Superintendent: Community in favor of two Johnson City middle schools, but not without concerns

Jessica Fuller • Updated Dec 5, 2017 at 9:13 PM

After making rounds of Johnson City’s schools for the past two months, school officials have gathered a lot of positive feedback for the plan to change the system to two middle schools for grades 5-8.

Currently, Johnson City students have three transitions throughout their time in the system — from elementary school to Indian Trail Intermediate School for grades 5-6, then to Liberty Bell Middle School for grades 7-8, then on to Science Hill for grades 9-12. The idea of moving to two middle schools was first presented at a September meeting of the Johnson City Board of Education.

Then officials toured the different elementary schools to get feedback from the public, ending with a meeting at North Side Elementary School on Tuesday. 

Superintendent Steven Barnett said feedback has been generally positive, with some parents harboring concerns about transportation and possible issues with transfer students staying with their cohort, which he said is the next step in the transition. 

Some other concerns are one-time costs, like upgrades to science labs, to make sure both schools are up to date on equipment, and the board began steps for that at its November meeting by approving a request for proposals to get engineers and architects on board to get an idea of what’s next for those facilities.

Fairmont, Lake Ridge and Mountain View students would attend Indian Trail, and Cherokee, North Side, South Side, Towne Acres and Woodland students would attend Liberty Bell.

In addition to students having fewer transitions throughout their education, Barnett said having two middle schools would increase the opportunities for students in extracurricular, academics and athletics and could get students more career ready by the time they exit the school system. 

Additionally, Barnett said it will help teachers and other school staff better cater to the needs of students if they are in one school for four years rather than two schools for two years each.

Going forward, Barnett said the next step is to publish an outline of the plan, which he said he hopes to have completed by 2020, adding that he’d prefer construction on the new Liberty Bell cafeteria and gymnasium to be completed before the transition begins. While public comments have concluded, comments are still being taken through an online survey that is open until Dec. 20.

Email Jessica Fuller at jfuller@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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