Though thousands of Knox countians were still without power Tuesday morning after the raucous storm system that blew through Monday afternoon, Knox County Schools said “weather, schmeather, let’s go for launch anyway,” and with that the 2023-24 school year has begun.
It was just a half day kickoff for the new year, but it was a much anticipated one at the new Mill Creek Elementary on Coward Mill Road in northwest Knox County. With the land purchase approved in September 2021, the construction of the school has been almost two years in the making, though the facility isn’t ready for a full slate of new students.
Primarily built to relieve overcrowding at Karns Elementary, the school is only opening for kindergarten through second grade this year, with the hopes that remaining construction will be complete in time for the 2024-25 school year. The ongoing work is evident on the otherwise shiny new campus: the grass is coming in nicely, but there are traffic cones, piles of dirt and gravel, backhoes, dump trucks and a fenced lot full of other heavy construction equipment. There’s also the widening of Coward Mill Road to contend with, most of which is completed near the school.
“As with many projects across the country, our contractor has faced construction delays due to materials and labor challenges,” KCS Superintendent Jon Rysewyk said. “While we are disappointed that Mill Creek Elementary won’t be ready for all its students, we are excited to welcome rising kindergartner, first and second graders to this new school in August.”
Josh Flory, KCS communications specialist, said the school will presently serve 300-350 students, with 52 total staff including 19 homeroom teachers. When completed, the student body is anticipated to reach a total of 800.
Since Mill Creek is essentially half open, there’s an end around for families zoned to the new school but whose older kids aren’t yet able to attend. For this year only, K-2 age students can remain at their previously zoned school if they have older siblings in attendance there with transportation provided for eligible families.
Sunny Scheafnocker, new principal of Mill Creek Elementary, said that this was the best possible option for families since the school wasn’t ready to open for all grades. There will also be an option for next school year only that allows rising fifth graders to remain at their current school, however transportation will not be provided. That will not be available after the 2024-25 school year.
Scheafnocker has previously served as principal and assistant principal at Hardin Valley Elementary and assistant principal at Amherst Elementary after beginning her KCS tenure as a teacher at Fountain City Elementary.
We’re very excited to begin the school year,” Scheafnocker said via email. “As you might expect, opening a new building presents some unique challenges, but it’s been encouraging to see all the support from families throughout the process. Mill Creek has an amazing group of teachers and staff, and we’re “otterly” excited to welcome students into their brand-new classrooms.”
Yeah, if you hadn’t heard yet, the new school’s mascot is an otter.