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Community outraged: 3 Sullivan County middle schools could close at end of school year

Sullivan County community meeting

Three Sullivan County schools could face permanent closure at the end of this school year.

The county Board of Education is discussing the possibility of closing Blountville Middle, Sullivan Gardens (grades 6-8), and Innovation Academy: the STEM school in the region.

"This is not fair to our kids. I'ts not fair to the parents. It's not fair to anyone in the community," said Sullivan Gardens resident Jo-Rita Gragg.

B.O.E members say they're nearly $2 million dollars in debt. $1.6 million was cut from the budget this year, plus $300,000 was spent on adding student resource officers.

Now the board is looking at plans to close schools to save money.

"They are not doing right by our kids," said Gragg.

On Wednesday night, Sullivan County residents gathered at Sullivan Gardens' cafeteria to voice their concerns over the possible closures.

Many students who would be affected by the closures were at the meeting.

"The teachers, the students, the parents, everybody that comes to Sullivan Gardens is like one big family," said concerned 9th grader Austin Riner. "I don't know why you'd want to break that up."

If Sullivan Gardens closes at the end of this year, the students would be sent to Colonial Heights Middle School next year. If Blountville Middle and Innovation Academy close, those students would be absorbed by Holston Middle School, which would put Holston at capacity.

"It would be really hard to switch everything. We'll have to make new friends and get used to new teachers," said 6th grader Charity Melson.

The students may have to switch schools again in the 2020-2021 school year, because that's when the new West Ridge High School is scheduled to open and the district plans to restructure again around that school.

Organizer's of Wednesday night's community meeting are creating a list of questions and concerns to be presented to the B.O.E at the Board's Thursday night meeting.

News 5 will continue to follow this story and bring you updates from Thursday's meeting, including what board members have to say.

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