Kids, adults celebrate new Adrian Burnett School

Sandra ClarkHalls, Our Town Youth

The kids were pumped. Some 24 girls and boys were hopping around in small clusters, directing families and guests to the gym at Adrian Burnett Elementary School (ABES) on January 6, 2023. Yes. We said gym. For the first time, ABES students have a real gymnasium, not a carpeted “playroom” with low ceilings.

We asked: What do you think about this building? They yelled back:

  • Large
  • New
  • Not Damp
  • Awesome!

It was almost time to officially open the $19.95 million replacement school at 4521 Brown Gap Road in Halls. These kids had “voluntarily” come on Friday to help get their new school ready for the return of all youngsters on Jan. 9.

The ribbon-cutting at Adrian Burnett Elementary School. Many more photos on the school’s Facebook page at

Speakers included school principal Stephanie Prince, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Rysewyk and former school board member and chair Patti Bounds. The Halls High band was large, new, not damp and awesome! HHS principal Spencer Long was there to support them.

Also spotted in the crowd: Steve Triplett, current school board member; Rhonda Lee, current county commissioner; Kristi Kristy, current school board chair; teachers and former teachers; former principals including the founding principal, Jim Prince.

Dr. Rysewyk thanked Merit Construction and two retired KCS guys who coordinated construction: Russ Oaks and Doug Dillingham.

Jacobs said when he took office, a first visitor was Patti Bounds, who invited him to Adrian Burnett School. “It was well-maintained, but also well-worn,” Jacobs said. “And the principal had a piece of plastic over her air conditioner to regulate the temperature. It was built in 1976 as a temporary facility. It’s come a long way to this beautiful building today.”

Bounds thanked former commissioners Charles Busler and R. Larry Smith. And all the parents who never gave up on getting the new school built.

The new school features a 94,000-square-foot building that includes:

  • 34 classrooms;
  • four teacher work areas;
  • two special education classrooms with shared support spaces;
  • a 7,100-square foot gymnasium, including a stage;
  • a music room;
  • an art room;
  • a library; and
  • a tornado shelter that will house approximately 935 occupants.

The building has capacity for approximately 800 students. Abatement of the former school building is scheduled to begin in February and will take approximately 6 to 8 weeks, followed by demolition of the building.

Getting it done

In an earlier interview, Bounds said she started working on a new school at Adrian Burnett before she even was sworn in. The school had been “on the list” and “off the list” for 20-plus years. Land was purchased on Tazewell Pike and then sold. One of her first press clips is newly-elected Patti Bounds looking over plans to remodel the old wooden structure.

Her first thought was, “My tax dollars are not going to remodel that old building.” She was told that the current school site was too small and landlocked. She singled out former Superindentent Bob Thomas and retired administrator Russ Oaks for their efforts to break that logjam.

“For that community to have an all-new school on the same site is pretty amazing,” she said. “I’m excited about what Charlie (Busler) and I were able to do there.”

Busler said he is proud to have worked with Bounds to secure funding for a new Adrian Burnett school and for improvements to Powell High (expanded lunchroom and new office) and Powell Middle (completion of kitchen so lunches could be prepared on-site).

Still to come: Who was Adrian Burnett?

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today Inc. Josh Flory, communications specialist for KCS, contributed information for this report.

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