published Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Rhea officials review school blueprints

By Kimberly McMillian

DAYTON, Tenn.—The contractor for the new high school in Rhea County said he knows the estimated $35 million construction cost for the current plans “is too much.”

Steve Hewlett, owner of Hewlett Spencer, told members of the Rhea County Commission and Board of Education that he wants their input on the rough draft of the school’s blueprints.

Since the county’s budget for the work was under $30 million, Hewlett said he wanted their review of the plans to know what they liked, didn’t need or wanted to change.

Director of Schools Jerry Levengood said the three-dimensional version of the plan he had seen before the meeting was “tremendously impressive.”

In December 2010, the Purchase and Finance Committee voted 5-2 to hire Hewlett Spencer after the school board and commissioners had set the necessary criteria for county schools’ expansion at a joint meeting in November.

Commissioner Bill Hollin said in November that the work needed to include expansion at the junior high to eliminate overcrowding.

There now are more than 4,200 students in the county school system.

In the proposed plan, the current high school in Evensville would function as the new middle school and a walkway would separate it from the vocational building. Now they’re adjoined.

The entrance to the campus would remain on Eagle Lane, but bus and car traffic would be redirected past the Rhea County Sheriff’s Office, which is near a cemetery behind the current high school. A guard shack at the center of the entranceway would address security concerns.

An awning would protect students from weather and allow smoother traffic flow whether picking up or dropping off students, according to the plan.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at

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