ORHS students work on branding, design ideas with mall redevelopment company

ORHS Students Work on Mall Redevelopment

Standing from left to right are Buddy McWilliams, Payne Adkins, Abigail Clanton, and Chris Giese. Seated from left to right are Wesley Robinson and Alex Tavangaran. (Photo courtesy J. Clint LaFollette)


For three classes at Oak Ridge High School, the future of the old Oak Ridge Mall property is something the students are taking personally. Nearly 60 students in the Digital Arts and Design and Virtual Enterprise classes have been working on a branding strategy for the once-thriving retail site, and their top ideas will be presented to Crosland Southeast, the Charlotte-based firm that has been working with the City of Oak Ridge to develop a plan to establish a multi-use work-live-play-shop destination.

“It has been an exciting project to work on, because there have been several attempts to revitalize this property, and all have failed due to, among other things, the lack of focus on the specific interest of Oak Ridge residents,” said Buddy McWilliams, an ORHS senior who is working on the project. “Crosland Southeast has shown that they want to be successful by looking at the interest of students and others who will be using the property.”

Crosland Southeast approached Oak Ridge School Board Chairman Keys Fillauer with the idea to work with the students, and an enthusiastic Fillauer discussed it with ORHS Principal David Bryant and teachers Linda Ousley and Clint Lafollette, and the project was off and running.

Ousley is the facilitator of the school’s Virtual Enterprise program. Ousley said that Crosland Southeast will get a good cross-section of Oak Ridge opinion by talking with the students, and the students are getting excellent experience they can use on their future resumes. [Read more...]

Low bid on Blankenship bleachers: $524,000

Blankenship Field Visitors Bleachers

Deemed to be unsafe, the visitors bleachers at Blankenship Field have been removed, and replacing them could cost more than $500,000.

The low bid on the bleacher replacement project at Blankenship Field came in at $523,940, a school official said Friday.

The bid on the project to replace the demolished visitor bleachers includes grading work and a handicap sidewalk at Jack Armstrong Stadium. Proposals were accepted through Friday. The recommended proposal from Dant Clayton Corp. of Louisville, Ky., will be considered by the Oak Ridge Board of Education on Monday.

Allen Thacker, Oak Ridge Schools maintenance and operations supervisor, said the project could cost another $40,000 if the Wildcat Crossing stairs on the home side of the field are reconditioned. That would make the total cost $563,940. It was the lowest of two qualified bids.

Thacker said funding for the project has not yet been identified. It’s been discussed at several recent meetings of the Oak Ridge City Council and Board of Education. Municipal and education officials have said options include city funding, school funding, a mix of the two, and donations. Earlier this month, School Board Chair Keys Fillauer told City Council that a funding decision could be made Monday. [Read more...]

Schools seek bids to replace demolished Blankenship bleachers

Blankenship Field Visitors Bleachers

Declared unsafe, the visitors bleachers at Blankenship Field have been removed, and the project to replace them has been put out for bids.

The visitors bleachers at Blankenship Field have been demolished, and the Oak Ridge Schools are scurrying to replace them by the start of the high school football season this fall.

Project bids are being accepted through March 21, although it’s not clear yet who will pay for the new bleachers and other improvements at Jack Armstrong Stadium. The bids could be considered by the Oak Ridge Board of Education on March 24.

The board could also make a funding decision then, School Board Chair Keys Fillauer told Oak Ridge City Council members during a Monday night meeting. There are a range of options that include city funding, school funding, and donations, among others. [Read more...]

Guest column: The Oak Ridge High School debt chronicles

Trina Baughn

Trina Baughn

The Oak Ridge High School Debt Chronicles—How a $40 Million Project Will Cost Taxpayers Over $126 Million (So Far) 

It appears that the nearly three-year long debate between the Oak Ridge City Council and the Board of Education (BOE) over who owes what on the high school renovation project—the single largest financial expenditure that this city has ever made—is about to be resolved once and for all (or so some hope). To many, this will provide a welcomed relief. For all, it will once again extend and increase a debt obligation far beyond what anyone ever imagined.

Just over one week after the initial public revealing, council will vote on a resolution to end the debate on the high school mortgage issue. The root problem that this resolution will address is not ambiguity in the 2004 referendum or in any “gentlemen’s agreements.” No, the reason that this resolution is necessary, according to the fifth “Whereas,” is “changing community economics and increasing educational needs.”  The need for this resolution, which will violate the original understanding and intent of the 2004 referendum, boils down to an implied need by the Oak Ridge schools for more money.

If passed, this resolution will allow the BOE to retain the portion of the half-cent sales tax revenues collected outside of the City of Oak Ridge and will accomplish the following: [Read more...]

TAs unite in opposition to outsourcing proposal as schools consider changes

Oak Ridge TA Outsourcing Teachers and Parents

Stacey Callison, left, says teaching assistants play important roles in the education of her children, and she thinks Oak Ridge Schools should seek another solution before outsourcing their jobs.

Note: This story was last updated at 12 a.m.

Teaching assistants have been united, and sometimes fierce, in their opposition to a proposal to outsource their jobs to a private company, and on Monday, Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers said administrators might have to “go back to the drawing board.”

The outsourcing proposal began as an attempt to help the school system comply with the reporting requirements of the Affordable Care Act and to avoid potentially large fines of up to $1.2 million for errors that might be made in following the new federal health care law.

But in the second half of a 3.5-hour school board meeting on Monday, teachers, teaching assistants, family members, and parents said the TAs would be concerned about their health care and retirement benefits if they were to become employees of PESG of Nashville. The 10 speakers also questioned the benefits of outsourcing in general, and they praised the work of Oak Ridge’s teaching assistants. [Read more...]

Fund forming to help family after student’s death as counselors meet with classmates

Linden Elementary School

Linden Elementary School is pictured above.

Counselors met with students at Linden Elementary School this morning, and a parent-teacher organization is forming a fund to accept donations to help the family of a third-grader who died Tuesday, an official said.

Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers said there were five counselors from elementary and middle schools, and the school psychologist who serves Linden, at the west-end elementary school this morning.

“They have met with students who appeared upset or anxious,” Borchers said in a Wednesday afternoon e-mail. “I will tell you, though, it has been remarkably calm in my opinion.”

The boy was found unresponsive on a school bus on Wilberforce Avenue at about 4:10 p.m. Tuesday. An ambulance took him to Methodist Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The boy has not been identified, and the cause of his death has not been determined. [Read more...]

Rescuers tried to save unresponsive student, cause of death unknown

Linden Elementary School

Linden Elementary School is pictured above.

The third-grade student who died Tuesday had appeared to be asleep on a school bus, officials said Wednesday.

But other students were unable to awake him at a bus stop on Wilberforce Avenue at about 4:10 p.m. Tuesday. The bus driver parked the bus and went back to check on the boy, but she was unable to wake him or get him to respond, Oak Ridge Fire Department Chief Darryl Kerley said.

She called 911. A dispatcher gave the bus driver instructions to care for the boy until rescuers arrived, Kerley said.

Firefighters responded within two minutes. The bus stop is behind a fire station on Tuskegee Avenue. The boy was taken by ambulance to Methodist Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead. [Read more...]

School board accepts extra $250K to avoid funding loss, school shutdown

The Oak Ridge Board of Education in two separate meetings on Monday quickly approved a budget amendment that accepts an extra $250,000 from the city, avoiding a potential loss of millions of dollars in state funding and averting an Oct. 1 school shutdown.

The additional funding had been requested by the school board, and it was approved by the Oak Ridge City Council in a 4-1-1 vote during a special meeting last week. After the council approved the extra money, the school board then had to amend its budget in two separate votes, or readings. Education officials are now expected to send the amended school system budget to state officials by Sept. 30. [Read more...]

First Wildcat Day for all sports draws players, fans, Coach Gaddis

Oak Ridge High School Wildband at Wildcat Day

Members of the Oak Ridge High School Band play at the opening of a Wildcat Day pep rally at the Ben Martin field on Saturday.

Enthusiastic fans and players flocked to Oak Ridge High School on Saturday for a first-of-its-kind pep rally that incorporated all sports and featured a football coach that helped the Wildcats win their last state championship and is leading the team once more.

The pep rally was part of what had officially been proclaimed Wildcat Day by the Oak Ridge City Council. The rally featured short cheerleader routines, music by members of the Oak Ridge High School Band, short speeches from city and school officials, an introduction to the ORHS Wildcats football team and coaches, and fireworks. [Read more...]

Oak Ridge students return to school, police enforce traffic safety; teachers, alumni welcomed

Oak Ridge Superintendent Reception

Oak Ridge Schools had a reception last week for new Superintendent Bruce Borchers, center, and Assistant Superintendent Chris Marczak. Borchers started in Oak Ridge on June 18. Also pictured above are James Hundertmark, right, who became Robertsville Middle School principal on July 1, and Christopher Scott, vice principal of curriculum and instruction at Oak Ridge High School.

Most Oak Ridge students returned to school on Monday, and police officers started a back-to-school traffic safety campaign. It’s known as “Operation Safe Start” and will focus on drivers who illegally pass school buses, speed in school zones, don’t wear safety belts or fail to ensure that their children do—or commit other unsafe driving actions near the schools.

Students at Willow Brook Elementary School and the Oak Ridge Schools’ Preschool returned to school in July. Oak Ridge will use an alternative schedule during the first week of school. (See the Oak Ridge Schools’ website for more information.)

In Anderson County, students returned to school on Wednesday, Aug. 7.

The resumption of classes in Oak Ridge caps a week in which school officials welcomed back representatives of graduating classes from 1946 to 2013, held a reception for new Superintendent Bruce Borchers and Assistant Superintendent Chris Marczak, and together with the Oak Ridge Police Department, announced a new agreement governing school resource officers, or SROs. [Read more...]

Oak Ridge municipal, education officials reach agreement on school resource officer MOU

James T. Akagi

James T. Akagi

School safety has been a high-priority issue for many people across the country since the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut in December.

It’s been an issue in Oak Ridge as well, with proposals to increase the number of school resource officers, or SROs, and a vigorous debate in July that was sparked by a controversial guest column written by Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn.

On Thursday, Oak Ridge municipal and education officials announced a cooperative effort to govern the city’s SRO program. They said an agreement has been reached between city officials and school officials on a memorandum of understanding, or MOU.

[Read more...]

Last year for Keys Fillauer Golf Tournament, which has raised $650,000 for Ronald McDonald House

Keys Fillauer

Keys Fillauer

In 35 years, the annual Keys Fillauer Invitational Golf Tournament and Clambake has raised $653,000 for the Ronald McDonald House in Knoxville, a press release said.

This year’s tournament is this weekend—on Friday, Aug. 2, and Saturday, Aug. 3—and it will be the last.

The press release said the inaugural KFI was in 1978 with nine participants at Southwest Point in Kingston. [Read more...]