It was debated for nearly two decades in Wise County, but the consolidation of six of its high schools into three is now a reality.
The plan called for renovating one high school and building two new schools in the county. It appears everything is going as planned and they could move in by the first of next year.
You would hardly know that a brand new high school is springing up behind the current Union High in Big Stone Gap. The towering construction crane over looking the school is a sure sign.
The new Union High is beginning to take shape. It looks exactly like the new Central High School under construction near Wise. "Both of those schools are prototype schools. The same design, same number of classrooms, gym, auditorium; all of those things are equal. Everything is going exceedingly well with those two projects," school superintendent Jeff Perry says.
Eastside, the former Coeburn High, is being renovated and should be the first to welcome students. "All of that seems to be going well. We are just a little bit behind schedule but nothing that we're concerned about. We will be able to catch up with the good weather and we will open up in August of this year," Perry said.
As for the other two projects, Union and Central, they too are on schedule. "We anticipate Union High School will be done in October or November of this year. Then Central will be constructed and ready to move in in December," he said.
As far as facilities go, the consolidation will reach its goals for Union and Central beginning in 2014 after the Christmas break. "Students will have a three-week break. We will use a week of break as work days for teachers to go ahead and make that transition into the new schools," he says.
Besides just the brick and mortar, the idea was to offer more to the students of the county; it's a goal Perry says they've reached. "We do realize that there was a lot of sacrifice that each of one of our communities made, especially those communities that lost the schools. But in terms of the curriculum offering, students have more offerings many more opportunities, both curricular and extracurricular," Perry said.
By next year all three consolidated schools will be open and operational.