COVID-19 has stalled a plan to consolidate several McMinn County schools, but plans are still in place to move forward with the idea in the near future.
MCS Director of Schools Lee Parkison said that there are scheduled meetings at this point between himself, McMinn County Mayor John Gentry, the school board and Sam Moser of Mainstreet Studio Architects to begin the discussions surrounding consolidation once again.
“There are no hard plans right now,” Parkison said, adding that he hopes to begin moving forward on the conversations “hopefully in the next month or so. The time has come when we need to start again.”
He said there are still some concerns around the consolidation plans, including whether there should be middle schools, how community schools would go away in the plan and whether to rebuild or remodel what’s already there.
“The things I just mentioned will determine where we go,” he explained.
There will also be cost questions, since the previous plans were drawn up prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“The figures are from well over a year ago,” Parkison said. “I think we will come together and make decisions on the direction we need to go.”
This conversation for the county schools comes on the heels of Athens City Schools and the Athens City Council agreeing on a plan to consolidate the four elementary schools into one structure at the current site of City Park Elementary School. The single building will now house two elementary schools — Athens City Primary School (Pre-K through second grade) and Athens City Intermediate School (third through fifth grade).
Parkison commended the city council and ACS board for coming to a consensus on the consolidation plan.
At the time that the initial county schools consolidation idea was brought up, multiple phases were proposed to make it happen.
When the proposal was laid out, the Phase I portion of the plan was replacing Riceville Elementary School with a new middle school that would be fed by Calhoun Elementary and Rogers Creek Elementary.
The phase would also include upgrades and renovations to Calhoun and Rogers Creek.
“The focus is on getting something going,” Parkison said at a school board work session when this was first brought up. “The cost (of this group of changes) would be the least cost we’ll have. This is doable.”
The Riceville portion of the phase would include a 90,000 square foot building that could accommodate 400-500 students and possibly more.
Upgrades to the Rogers Creek structure, in the plan, would include a new secure entry into what is now the teacher’s area, an expansion of the cafeteria and the possibility of a new media center.
The renovations in Calhoun would include a new gym area and an expanded cafeteria.
The gym would be constructed on the opposite side of the building as it currently stands, which would enclose the center area of the school and make for a secure area for students to be outside.
It would also be connected to the rest of the school with new hallways, eliminating the current need for students to walk outside when heading from one area to another, which presents security concerns.
In order to connect the building where the gym would move from, the plan proposes adding five regular size classrooms and one smaller one.
A couple of local off road enthusiast groups banded together to repay some kindness offered to them.
The Tennessee Ridge Monkeys and the McMinn Jeep Crew, both consisting of four-wheel drive off road enthusiasts, came together to clean up the Athens Power Lines on Saturday.
The Tennessee Ridge Monkeys group contains 350 members, according to Josh Stevens, who is a part of the group.
“It is a place where everybody goes to play or do a modification or something,” Stevens said. “It is privately owned property, so we felt it was something that we need to do — cleaning up, to keep it open because the people that let us use it could close it down at anytime.”
He believes cleaning the location also sends a message of good faith to the owners.
“They are kind enough to let us use it, so I think we should pay them back a little,” Stevens expressed. “We got there around noon and cleaned up until around 2. We had two dumpsters and made a dent in it, but you could clean that up for days.”
He believes his group will attempt to maintain the cleanup as the opportunity arises.
“We may start carrying trash bags and try to haul them back off, but our main goal is for people to know that the trash isn’t coming from those who drive off road,” he noted. “There was a lot of household garbage there. A lot of carpet, linoleum, car parts, things like that, but we off road enthusiasts are very adamant about if you take it in then you take it out.”
According to Stevens, one of the largest events for off roading, Outwest, was cancelled due to trash.
“Moab (Utah) is out west and if you get to go, people will look at you and go ‘wow he went to Moab,’” Stevens said. “It is a big off road event and it is some of the best riding in the world.”
He believes picking up the trash at the Athens Power Lines was very important.
“We have to protect what we have, we have to protect this gift to us,” he expressed. “All of this isn’t ours, we are just borrowing it from our kids and grandkids, so if we aren’t careful we are going to lose it.”
Dr. Charles J. “Jack” Montgomery operated a dental office on Tennessee Avenue in Downtown Etowah for a number of years. Montgomery’s dental assistant was an African-American woman.
Virginia Williams Taylor was born in Buckhead, Ga. in 1906. She and her family moved to Etowah, where her father and brothers found work in the L&N Railroad shops.
Taylor attended school in Etowah and later graduated from Knoxville College. She married Leo Taylor, who was also from Georgia.
According to a verbal history from Taylor, her husband was an employee of the Glennora Hotel. He transported guests between the railway station and the hotel, which was located on the corner of Sixth Street and Tennessee Avenue.
Leo also drove his wife to and from her job at the dentist’s office every day. She would always sit in the back seat of her husband’s car.
Although she worked in Montgomery’s office for many years from the late-1940s until the 1960s prior to integration, it was possible patients never knew that she was a woman of color.
Local historians have shared a story about Leo Taylor coming to the dentist office one day to pick up some money from his wife. When he asked to see his wife, he was told she did not work there. He insisted that his wife was Virginia Taylor and he wanted to see her.
A patient in Montgomery’s chair left immediately and said she would “never be back.”
Virginia Taylor worked as Montgomery’s dental assistant until their retirement. Her circumstances can be viewed as an example of what is called “racial passing.”
This phrase was often used to describe the actions of people of color or mixed racial heritage who chose to assimilate into white society in order to escape racial discrimination.
Brittany Davis has been selected to be McMinn County Schools’ overall system teacher of the year.
She was also selected as the system’s 9th through 12th grade teacher of the year as well.
She currently works as the agriculture teacher at McMinn County Career Technical Education (CTE) Center.
Davis stated that it was humbling being selected to be the teacher of the year.
“There were a lot of other teachers that were nominated from their schools and a lot of great teachers, so overall it was a humbling experience,” Davis said. “I teach with some great teachers and I have great students that make the classroom easy and make teaching a lot easier.”
Davis has worked as a teacher for six years with this being her fifth year working for McMinn County.
“I didn’t decide to be a teacher until I was a senior in high school. Prior to that I wanted to be a veterinarian,” she recalled. “Once I got into high school I became very active in the agricultural program and very active in the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and so, through those experiences, I changed my mind about my career path with the aspiration of wanting to become an agriculture educator.”
She believes the most rewarding part of her job is being able to interact with her students outside of the classroom.
“It is rewarding to see the light click when students understand a concept in the classroom, but being an agriculture teacher, I am also an FFA advisor so a lot of students that I have in class I see outside of the classroom on FFA trips or preparing them for different competitions or events,” stated Davis. “We build a more personal relationship and I think of these students as my own kids. I get to watch them mature and develop leadership skills over the four years that I have them and that is the most rewarding part.”
Davis said she greatly enjoys her position and that it has fostered other interests for her.
“When I was hired by McMinn, I was told that I would be teaching the plant classes so I had to do a lot more research, but over the years I feel like I have developed my knowledge in plant science a lot more than what I started with and now I love working with them,” she said.
Davis graduated from McMinn County High School before attending Tennessee Tech University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Science with a concentration in agriculture.
Her first teaching job after graduation was in Walker County, Georgia, before moving back to McMinn to work at McMinn County High School in 2016.
While working as a teacher she acquired her master’s degree from Murray State University.
Her hobbies include to “anything to do outside” such as hiking, kayaking, fishing, reading and spending time with family.
“I’m very close with my family, I am very close to my church family at Watts Bar, and I am also a youth leader there,” she noted. “Overall that is what consumes my life outside of my job — my hobbies, family and church.”
Her immediate family consists of her husband, Jesse Davis, whom she married in 2014.
Davis expressed her gratitude to everyone in her life for helping her make it this far.
“Thank you to all of my coworkers that I teach with, all of my students that I have in the classroom. They make this job easier and make it feel like less of a job when coming to work every day,” Davis expressed. “I have had a chance to grow along with my students and I just want to say thank you. It is because of all of their hard work that allowed me to be nominated for Teacher of the Year.”