Stay or go?

Architect unveils options for Maryville High School that include choice of staying on site or relocating to a new campus

By Lance Coleman
Blount Today

Maryville Public Building Authority members saw what could be the future of Maryville High School on its current site during a meeting Tuesday night.

If school leaders keep the school on its existing site, architect proposals call for a new sunken 4,000-seat gymnasium, a new 12,000 square foot library, a new 800-seat auditorium, a theater and a new central office.

Either of the two options would require acquiring homes or structures neighboring the school. Option A would call for acquiring between 15 and 20 properties. Option B would call for acquiring between 20 and 30 properties.

The city has worked hard to be as neighborhood-friendly as possible, said Daryl R. Johnson of Johnson Architects of Knoxville. "One of the challenges is how to present this to the neighborhood."

It would take roughly 18 months to two years to complete on-site work for either plan, Johnson said.

The main difference between the two designs shown Tuesday was that one called for a new three-story addition to the science wing while the other called for a two-story addition and a renovated middle school that would be converted into a magnet school or freshmen academy. A new middle school would have to be built off the current site.

Johnson presented the proposals for expanding on the high school’s current site during a meeting at the Maryville City Schools central office Tuesday night. At a previous meeting, he gave two proposals for building a new facility on another piece of property away from the existing site.

"What you’re looking at today is two different options on this site," Johnson said. "Option A would have 1,700 students and option B would have 2,200 students.

Johnson said the current school grounds have about 18 to 19 acres of land. A new school would need between 30 and 40 acres. Planners start out "hamstrung" because the current structure is in a downtown area with existing buildings and houses on bordering property.

Option A would require acquiring land near the school. The plan calls for expanding the campus on property between Lawrence Avenue and West Broadway Avenue and Cedar Street to Cunningham Street, Johnson said.

"We would propose acquiring property in existing neighborhoods," he said.

"This proposal eliminates all of the 1937 portion of the high school and the central office," he said.

Johnson said that the school had been remodeled in 1950, 1980 and 1990. Both plans A and B not only eliminate the 1937 high school portion, but plans also call for the central office to be razed. They would be replaced with a gymnasium, auditorium and library. Core curriculum classes would be placed closer together so students wouldn’t have to go from one end of the campus to the other.

There would be about 162 new parking spaces adjacent to the new theater and current football field. There would be a total of between 650 and 700 parking spaces, he said.

The new semi-circle entry for the high school would expand out from where the current entry is. Also, high school administrative offices would be moved to the west of where the current entry is and the commons area would be opened up more.

On the West Broadway Avenue entrance to the football field, a new ticket booth would be built that would replace the current plywood building. There would also be a line of trees that would be placed along the West Broadway Avenue side of campus.

"We’re putting our arms around the property to show this is something special," he said.

Option A also called for building a new two-story, 8,000 square foot central office at the corner of Cunningham Street and West Broadway Avenue. This would be about 2,000 square feet more than what currently exists. "It would create an element that identifies the campus and gives the board office a separate identity," he said.

A new wing of 46 classrooms would be added in a two-story wing that would link to the science wing on the East side of the campus and connect to the current auxiliary gym on the side of the school facing the tennis courts. The plan would also call for building another middle school and renovating the existing middle school to accommodate 800 more high school students as part of a second campus for the school.

"You’ll have a high school on two campuses," he said.

Johnson said the library would be increased by 180 percent its current size.

Architecture, like the brick archways in the current building, would be preserved. They also would be expanded with new archways, he said.

Johnson described the new gymnasium as "similar to Thompson Boling Arena" in that it would be sunken, and people would walk down into the seating area as opposed to walking up bleachers. The existing upper level of the current gym would be a cardio area. Classrooms also would connect with a balcony over the new library, Johnson said.

The existing band room would be converted into a chorus room. The ground floor beneath the auxiliary gym would be a new band room, he said.

Johnson said Option B is virtually the same as Option A except that it doesn’t include remodeling and repurposing the middle school. With Option B, three stories are built onto the science wing on the east side of the school as opposed to the two levels seen in Option A. The Option B would have 63 new classrooms, he said.

Johnson said that while Option A bent Lawrence Avenue and brought it out to White Avenue, Option B would extend Lawrence Avenue all the way to Magnolia Street. "One of the disadvantages of Option B is it requires somewhat more (land) acquisition," he said.

Johnson said Option A would have 190,000 square feet of new construction plus 169,000 square feet of middle school renovations. Option B would have 222,000 square feet of new construction. There would be 650 to 700 new parking spaces with Option A and 750 to 900 new parking spaces with Option B, he said.

Johnson said one of the biggest challenges in creating the proposals was making allowances for the current differences in floor levels in the school and getting new construction to align with old.

Joe Tipton, chairman of the Maryville Public Building Authority, said that regardless of whether Option A or Option B were chosen, staying at the current site would mean displacing some individuals and acquiring properties in the neighborhood. This is a huge concern, Tipton said.

Board member Tommy Spears wondered when it might become feasible to look at relocating to a new high school off site from the current one. "There’s got to be a point we go to another high school," he said. "I was wondering, where do we stop (expanding)?"

On Thursday, June 14 at 5 p.m., Johnson will show all four plans to a combined meeting of the Maryville City Council and the Maryville School Board. The meeting will be in the Ruby Tuesday Lecture Hall at Maryville High School. It is open to the public.

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