Loudon High School may not open on time

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By: Brittany Bailey, Reporter WBIR TV 7/31/2007

Loudon High School students may get an extended summer break.

That's because school officials must complete a laundry list of repairs before fire investigators will allow the school to open for students.

"We're making the best of a rough situation," said Edward Headlee, Director of Schools. "We hoped it wouldn't get to this point."

The problems began about three years ago when an inspector for the state fire marshal told school officials they would need to either install a sprinkler system or close off parts of hallways to bring the school up to code.

Headlee says school leaders got to work on the cheaper plan of compartmentalizing the hallways, which would contain smoke in the event of a fire. But later, inspectors insisted they add a sprinkler system, too.

Both projects are now underway, but when school officials met with investigators Friday, they learned the plans for the 40-year-old school might have to expand.

On Monday, school leaders received a lengthy list of repairs that confirmed their suspicions. Numerous items were highlighted in green, meaning they were absolute requirements.

"If they're in green and they're not done, they're not going to let us put children in the building," Headlee said. "We have no recourse. We've got to get it done."

Some of those repairs include a fix for damaged floor tiles in the auditorium, more patching between the wall and ceiling, covering or removing most of the glass in the entrances to the library and installing locks in many doors.

The school board has called a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the central office. Members will discuss how to fix the problems and how to pay for them.

Headlee says some options are to take money from the maintenance fund in this year's budget, dip into the fund balance or borrow from the building fund.

Meanwhile, there are some changes for high school registration.

Returning students should simply return to school Wednesday, Aug. 8, which is the scheduled first day of school.

New students should report to Fort Loudon Middle School between 8 a.m. and noon either Thursday, Aug. 2, or Monday, Aug. 6.