9th Grade Academy finished; classes to be held there today

Gary B. Gray • Jan 4, 2012 at 12:11 AM

Science Hill High School students will take their seats in the new, two-story 9th Grade Academy for the first time today.

Just 30 days ago at the Johnson City Board of Education’s last monthly meeting the tone was anything but optimistic this would happen. Chattanooga’s EMJ Corp. had been slowed by inclement weather and trouble with subcontractors. Board members expressed their discontent, especially with the fact needed classroom space would not be ready for students when they returned from the holiday break.

But EMJ, which also is hustling to finish a new dining hall and multipurpose gymnasium, pooled its resources while students and teachers were out and rapidly made up for lost time.

“The building official has signed off on the academic building, meaning a certificate of occupancy was granted,” said Tommy Burleson, the city’s construction agent. “The state fire marshal did the final walk through today (Tuesday) and also has signed off on it. Teachers are set to go. Now it’s a matter of phasing students in however the school system decides to work it.”

The new academy will provide a total of 64 classrooms, of which 28 are dedicated to ninth-graders with the remaining classes to be used as 10/12 classrooms. About 15 classrooms will be occupied beginning today.

“The first step is to take students out of the old wing that will be demolished,” said Tony Spears, Science Hill High School associate principal. “This has traditionally where we’ve had our 10/12 math students. Our teachers are ready to begin.”

Instruction and Facilities Supervisor Dave Chupa told board members the surprising turn around at the academy was “a kind of Santa and his elves at work” thing. The old third wing now can be demolished during off hours and at night, Chupa added.

Completing the 9th Grade Academy is an achievement. But EMJ is being assessed daily liquidated damages for the structures it has not completed. The company was tasked with constructing four new buildings: administrative offices, the new academic building, dining hall and multipurpose gymnasium. Only the administrative offices and the academy have been cleared for occupancy.

The dining hall will not likely be finished until the end of this month; the multipurpose gymnasium is expected to be complete in mid- to late-March. Though portions of the overall, $23 million campus project are now complete, Burleson has calculated the financial penalty based on the remaining square footage of the incomplete buildings.

Beginning Dec. 23, EMJ began incurring penalties of $293 a day (29 percent) for the multipurpose gymnasium and $70 a day (7 percent) for the dining hall. The academic building and administrative offices account for the remaining 64 percent of the total square footage.

The damages could come in two forms. There can be a change order in the contract and the money would be deducted from what is owned to the company, or the company would agree to perform additional work in the amount of financial damages owed.

Science Hill has an enrollment of more than 2,220 students in grades 9-12.

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