Johnson City completed construction of eight additional classrooms at Woodland Elementary School, marking another milestone in the city’s school system’s plan to expand to two middle schools beginning in August.
Currently, Johnson City Schools students attend Indian Trail Middle School for fifth and sixth grades before moving to Liberty Bell Middle School for seventh and eighth grades.
Beginning in the 2022–23 school year, fifth graders will remain in elementary school before graduating from Liberty Bell or Indian Trail colleges in grades six through eight.
To accommodate these changes, Johnson City is building 20 classrooms in three elementary schools – four at South Side Elementary, eight at Woodland and eight at Lake Ridge Elementary. City officials acknowledged completion on South Side with a ribbon cutting in January, and classroom additions in Lake Ridge are underway.
The Johnson City Board of Education received an update on those classroom additions — as well as other capital projects — at its Monday meeting.
Students now use Woodland’s new classrooms, which are located in two new wings of the school. Randy Trivette, the city’s director of facilities management, expects those wings to eventually accommodate fourth and fifth graders after transitioning to middle school in August.
Trivette said crews have yet to complete work on the site outside of the new wings, which will include setting up a playground and completing landscaping.
The system also plans to modify the road system around Woodland so that traffic does not return to Indian Ridge Road when parents drop off or pick up their children. A longer driveway will wrap around the school campus so motorists won’t get stuck on Indian Ridge.
Crews are also completing upgrades to the school’s 30-year-old HVAC system. Once the new wings are complete, officials plan to move some classrooms around the school so crews can finish installing HVAC in other parts of the building.
At Lake Ridge, workers poured concrete and placed door frames for the masonry walls. A crane was also on hand to install HVAC units on the roof. Superintendent Steve Barnett said those additions are nearing completion at the end of the summer.
In total, Barnett estimated the classroom additions and HVAC upgrades at the three elementary schools will cost about $14 million. The system primarily funds HVAC upgrades in Woodland and Lake Ridge with federal pandemic relief funds.
Transportation of homeless students
At its Monday meeting, the board approved the purchase of two minivans for the system’s homeless student program, which will help ensure that visiting students without reliable living conditions can continue to attend the same school.
The system will fund the $81,715 cost of the vehicles with a homelessness grant offered by the American Rescue Plan Act.
Program coordinator Sydnee DeBusk said the system currently has an aging work van that it uses to transport homeless students. Barnett said the new vans will replace the old vehicle.
“Because our kids are rebounding, we’re doing our best to keep them in school where they have stability,” DeBusk said.
If a homeless student moves to another location outside of their regular school zone, DeBusk explained, their school bus cannot travel across town to provide transportation to their regular school.
Staying in a stable learning environment is an important part of maintaining academic progress, she said.
The number of students employed for transportation varies based on need, DeBusk said. Employees will also use the vehicles to transport supplies for families or take students on errands like doctor’s appointments.
“We are so excited to be able to accelerate our transportation services,” DeBusk said. “It’s so necessary.”