Powell High School is getting a $3.5 million facelift. Construction is underway and principal Dr. Chad Smith estimates about a year to completion, with no disruption to daily operations.
Smith met with school board member Patti Bounds recently for a walk-through. Both are psyched and Smith said emphatically, “This would not have happened without Patti Bounds’ leadership. She kept this project alive.”
Bounds didn’t disagree. Working with District 7 commissioner Charles Busler, Bounds shepherded three projects through tight budgets to obtain funding:
- Powell High – New entrance and expanded cafeteria/commons area
- Powell Middle – Completion of the kitchen so meals can be prepared on-site
- Adrian Burnett Elementary – Construction of a brand-new school on the existing site in Halls.
Powell High was designed and built for 1,000 students. Current enrollment is 1,300.
“This is not about getting a new office,” said Smith. “The new common space/cafeteria will help us academically. Everything we do is so driven by space.” With just four class blocks per day, the lunch schedule disrupts one or even two blocks, making it difficult to schedule science labs, for instance.
“In theory, seating 300 to 500 more kids (in the former office space) could enable us to go from five lunches (per day) to three.”
Construction of new administrative offices and a new entrance is underway in the area between the main building and the music wing.
Once the principals move to the new space, their current offices will be torn out – the space used for an expanded commons area. The existing concession stand (used for basketball games) will be removed as well. The guidance offices will remain in place, along with the college and career center – where students can find help about college and trade school requirements and scholarships – and the school store.
Safety is paramount with the new design, Smith said. The new entrance will have a double vestibule with double-locked doors. The current entrance will remain, but with outside door handles removed or disabled.
Merit Construction has the contract, and Smith meets with them every two weeks to review the progress. He said the project manager was the site supervisor when the school was expanded with the addition of the music wing.
Smith acknowledged that school will look different in 2020-21 because of COVID-19, and said he hopes to install picnic tables on campus so students can eat outside.
Bounds took it all in and said she had one request – that Smith not leave Powell High until the project is finished. Principals are assigned by the superintendent of schools. Smith said he’s not looking to leave. He’s looking to make Powell High School Knoxville’s best.