Science Hill High School will open its doors Friday for students in grades 9-12 for a full day of classes, Director of Schools Richard Bales said about midday Thursday.
Seniors will report to homeroom in the Career Technical Building; juniors will report to the cafeteria; sophomores will report to the auditorium, and freshmen will report to their homerooms at the Liberty Bell Middle School campus.
These students did not attend Thursday’s scheduled first day of class due to lingering concerns by the state fire marshal’s office over two areas of the school where students must travel between the existing building and new construction.
Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph Strong, along with school and city officials were on campus Thursday morning after reviewing a Life Safety Plan assembled by architect Community Tectonics. State officials did not sign off on the plan one day earlier leaving Bales no option but to announce that classes would not open on schedule.
“The fire marshal’s office asked that we upgrade all fire alarm systems,” said Dave Chupa, Johnson City Schools’ instruction and facilities supervisor. “We’re in the process of completing that, and they have checked them. They also asked that two new sets of doors that will be used as exits be installed. One in the old cafeteria, and one in the library, which is just next door.”
Following a walk-through with the contractor, EMJ Corp. around noon, the fire marshal’s office OK’d the plan, opening the way for students to return today for a full day of classes. When they get there, they’ll likely notice the four Johnson City firefighters who will be on campus for about one week to monitor fire drills and observe and record any snags.
Both Interim JCFD Fire Chief Mark Scott and Assistant Chief Mark Finucane, who have been at or near the middle of the attempt to do whatever was necessary to open school, and gave thorough reports to the media Wednesday, said on Thursday they could not discuss the matter.
Just hours before Bales was forced to make Wednesday’s announcement, the Johnson City Board of Education held an 8 a.m. emergency special called meeting to address the issue. The level of concern was very high, and board member Tim Belisle described the situation as “... absolutely infuriating.”
The board unanimously voted to contact state legislators and the state fire marshal’s office to see if the matter could be moved along. However, they set a noon deadline for resolving the matter so that students and parents could be notified, whether the result would be one that was negative or positive.