Lincoln County Board of Education officials voted unanimously last week to move forward with leasing a portion of the Ninth Grade Academy building to a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Center.
The remainder of the building is to be used to as a hybrid/non-traditional school facility.
Officials made the decision during the May meeting Monday, following months of community input, deliberation and a recommendation by Dr. Bill Heath, director of Lincoln County Schools.
Negotiations with TCAT will continue, and plans are for a virtual school containing a computer network to be launched as soon as possible. Over the next school year, the school system’s central offices will be consolidated at NGA.
It may be the first of its kind in a rural Tennessee setting, said Heath, adding that the TCAT offers cyber security and will have a computer network ready for the next school year. He estimated, during a work session April 29, that it would take about a year for TCAT to renovate classrooms to be used for welding, machining and cosmetology.
Other work areas for students would be in the shop area to the back of the building, he said, noting that he plans to keep three to four classrooms available for additional TCAT opportunities.
Preliminary plans are for LCBOE offices to be located along most of the central hallway. Both the auditorium and gymnasium are to be preserved as is.
In addition, Heath said the vision for NGA’s use may expand, with the possibility of having a middle college at NGA in the future.
He mentioned the teacher shortage in the state and pondered whether MTSU or Athens State might partner with Motlow College to provide “2+2 programs” in elementary education so that courses could be provided in Fayetteville for new graduates or for others who wanted to go back into a profession.
A 2+2 program allows students to complete an associate’s degree in teaching with Motlow College and complete the bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a university on one of Motlow’s campuses.
For the summer, the alternative school would move to the south hallway, but ultimately, it will be moved to the Davidson Avenue LCBOE office building when it is eventually vacated. Heath said he doesn’t anticipate that any major construction is needed there.
Thomas Stevenson, chairman, commented that the committee was charged with finding the best option to serve students in the long term.
“We have opportunity to partner with the state TCAT program,” he said. “It gives us a working relationship with them that will garner a workforce initiative that can serve our businesses here and in the radius around us, and long term, look at a middle college concept and other opportunities for growth,” Stevenson said.