Posted Date: 11/18/2022
KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — For decades, East Tennessee schools have struggled to keep up with the costs of maintenance.
Parents, students and teachers have complained about leaky roofs, crowded classrooms and outdated technology. The solutions often came with million-dollar price tags that districts simply can't afford.
Then, East Tennessee schools came into a windfall — more than $500 million in COVID-19 funding. Here's how they spent it.
ALCOA CITY SCHOOLS:
Alcoa City Schools received about $3.9 million in ESSER funds, according to documents submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
The district said it intended to spend about $1.5 million on building upgrades at Alcoa Intermediate School, specifically on the roofing, walls and HVAC system.
It also wanted to upgrade radios and security cameras across the district, provide additional maintenance/custodial support and purchase the necessary equipment for sanitation and HVAC maintenance.
ANDERSON COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Anderson County Schools received about $18.3 million in ESSER funds, according to documents submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
"When the ESSER funds came in, it allowed us to really prioritize and do some of the things that probably we would have put off for the next four or five years," said Dr. Tim Parrott of Anderson County Schools. "Some of them, we may have not ever done."
A project at Norris Middle School will add six additional indoor classrooms and about 80 parking spots, among other upgrades.
Documents show the district is replacing 29 HVAC units at Lake City Elementary, Norwood Elementary, Norris Elementary and Clinch River Community School.
"We put all new walls, all new windows, we're putting on brick [at Norris Elementary]," Parrott said. "There's a new roof on the school. The air conditioning has been redone at that school ... It brings it into the 21st century."
BLOUNT COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Blount County Schools received about $29.2 million in ESSER funds, according to documents submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
The district is repairing and replacing HVAC systems across the county and creating a preventative maintenance program.
It is also constructing a career and technical education building on the campus of Eagleton College and Career Academy, according to the paperwork.
CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Campbell County Schools received about $25 million in ESSER funds, according to documents submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
The district wrote that it's "future-proofing" its buildings for the future. That includes upgrading entrances, exits and access points, as well as installing new roofs, new HVACs and gutter repairs.
The district is also expanding its furniture, welding and construction program. One school will is getting new gymnasium bleachers.
CLAIBORNE COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Claiborne County Schools received about $18 million in ESSER funds, according to documents submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
The district said it is upgrading HVAC units at all schools, installing air purification units in all classrooms and replacing defective windows and doors — including windows that contain asbestos.
It also budgeted for touch-free restroom accessories, hand sanitizer stations and water bottle refilling stations. The district wrote it intended to replace all the restroom stalls that were unsanitary.
In addition, Claiborne County said it would be adding covered walkways, replacing school carpet with tile and adding rubber mulch to elementary school playgrounds.
COCKE COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Cocke County Schools received about $24.7 million in ESSER funds, according to documents submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
The district said it intended to complete deferred maintenance and purchase HVACS, air purifiers and ionization systems.
The ESSER grant funded asbestos abatement and roof repairs.
FENTRESS COUNTY SCHOOLS:
In Fentress County, the money is helping upgrade the buildings of Allardt Elementary, Pine Haven Elementary, South Fentress Elementary, York Elementary and Clarkrange High School.
The district wrote it was upgrading HVAC units, windows and doors at those schools, as well as adding additional space.
GRAINGER COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Grainger County has several schools in need of HVAC updates and roof repairs, according to its ESSER plans.
It's using the money to "prevent high moisture levels in the building that contribute to poor air quality."
HAMBLEN COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Hamblen County Schools said it used the COVID-19 money to improve and add additional programs of study by purchasing a new building and starting new construction and renovations.
It is also upgrading HVAC systems across the district.
JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOLS:
In Jefferson County, Superintendent Tommy Arnold is using the money for long-overdue repairs.
"It was a blessing to be able to receive these funds," he said. "It has done great things for our buildings for our students throughout the district."
Jefferson County has used it to repair roofs, add air conditioning to gyms and upgrade HVACs.
"Piedmont Elementary is getting a $12 million renovation that involves roof [fixes], HVACs, asbestos abatement," he said. "We spent $3.5 million on a project that people will never see and that's roofs ... Whenever a heavy rain would happen some of our schools would have 25 leaks within their building."
KNOX COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Knox County Schools wrote that it intended to build out 40 virtual studio spaces for teachers and students enrolled in KCS Virtual School.
It also added classroom space at an elementary school and replaced the HVACs at the alternative school and two high schools.
The district said it also intended to spend ESSER funds on the renovation cost and related expenses of Lincoln Park into the Newcomer Academy. Those facility changes will help support "work-based learning career practicum courses."
LOUDON COUNTY SCHOOLS
Loudon County Schools purchased broadcasting equipment for middle and high school students to live stream school events.
It is constructing outdoor classrooms at each school and is adding air purifiers, air filters, UV sanitizer for technology, additional student desks and food carts.
It upgraded the HVAC systems at four schools.
MONROE COUNTY SCHOOLS:
The Tennessee Department of Education has no records for Monroe County Schools' ESSER plans.
MORGAN COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Morgan County Schools received about $10.1 million in ESSER funds, according to documents submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
It used a portion of it on HVAC systems and controls for school facilities at Petros Joyner, Central Elementary, MCCTC, and Coalfield.
It also replaced flooring at Sunbright, Oakdale, and Central Middle Schools.
If they got more money, the district pledged to use it on roofing, parking lot resurfacing, furniture, windows and doors.
ROANE COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Roane County Schools received about $20.6 million in ESSER funds, according to documents submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
The district spent part of it on replacing HVAC systems, as well as several roofing, paving and renovation projects.
SCOTT COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Scott County Schools received about $12.6 million in ESSER funds, according to documents submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
Burchfield Elementary School will get more classrooms as part of an old gymnasium conversion. That will eliminate the need for classes to be held in trailers.
Multiple schools will get new HVACs, roofing updates and awning extensions.
Fairview Elementary School will get a new gym, according to the documents.
SEVIER COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Sevier County Schools received about $46.6 million in ESSER funds, according to documents submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
It intended to use part of that money on 16 new school buses to reduce the number of children on each route. It is purchasing ionization air purification systems for some schools.
It will also get trash compacting dumpsters at schools to handle the increased waste due to single-serve and no-contact meals.
UNION COUNTY SCHOOLS:
Union County Schools received about $13.7 million in ESSER funds, according to documents submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
It said it wanted to use a portion of the funds for "costs associated with architectural/engineering and partial construction of a new middle school building."
It also intended to replace windows and doors at the district's four oldest elementary schools because they either do not open or are ineffective.
It said some of the money would go towards upgrading classroom furniture and door locks, as well as renovating and/or expanding in-school clinics.