During a meeting on Thursday, the McMinn County Schools System approved a feasibility study to be conducted.
Regarding the future of the county school system, the study is being implemented as the first of three potential phases, according to Director of Schools Lee Parkison.
After the study’s findings, the second segment is expected to center around demographics and the third stage, design.
During the feasibility study, Samuel Moser and Bill Stevenson from the architectural firm Michael Brady Inc (MBI) will spend four to six weeks examining and surveying all of the McMinn schools. The price of the study is $72,000 and it is being paid for by the school system’s budget.
The county’s newest school, Rogers Creek, is more than 25 years old.
“Our schools are old and it’s time to do work for education in McMinn County Schools,” Parkison said. “They may be in good shape, but we need to know.”
The assessment is not only vital for the present, but also for the system’s future, according to the director.
“We need to find out where we are before deciding what we need to do and where we need to go,” Parkison said, noting that the architects will be looking at facets like “are (the buildings) worth renovating or expanding and is the infrastructure sound.”
Looking at the county as a whole, the superintendent said that improving or updating facilities could be key for local economic development, posing that dated schools could be one factor limiting area growth.
“If we expect our county to grow — businesses and industry look at the community and schools first,” Parkison said.
Of course, the director also spoke about how environments affect education.
“It impacts education because everybody wants to attend a school that’s safe, energy efficient, appropriately sized, suited for education and is optimal energy-wise,” Parkison explained.
He noted that enhancing the educational facilities would improve morale both in the schools system and in the community.
“Anytime you have great schools and buildings in a community, there is more of a sense of pride and it raises the bar for everybody — teachers, students, faculty and the community,” he said.
Both the McMinn County Board of Education and the director agree that now is the time to look at upgrading schools.
On Thursday, the motion for the feasibility study was unanimously approved. It was initiated by Board Member Mike Lowry and simultaneously seconded by fellow members Donna Cagle and Quentin Howard.
Since the motion passed, the study is beginning immediately, according to Parkison.
“We’re excited,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming. I’m glad to get it going and I thank the Board for that.”
According to Parkison, he has a “good working relationship” with McMinn County Mayor John Gentry and the County Commission. He explained that they are on board with the project.
After phase one is complete, the community will be encouraged to offer feedback, Parkison said.
“Later, the community will be involved and have a voice,” he said. “The public will be very important and instrumental moving forward.”