Future of Soddy-Daisy high schools in question

Future of Soddy-Daisy high schools in question

March 7th, 2009 by Kelli Gauthier in Local Regional News

Talk of merging Sequoyah High School with nearby Soddy-Daisy High doesn't surprise Sequoyah Principal Steven Holmes.

"I understand why the discussion is taking place," he said. "Until it gets to the point where discussion is a reality, I'm not worried."

The building, which houses 344 students but according to a school system report has room for 1,135, is the most expensive facility in the whole school district to operate, Mr. Holmes said.

School Superintendent Jim Scales said he has talked with Hamilton County Board of Education member Rhonda Thurman, who represents the board district in which the schools are located, and to both high school principals about the future of the schools, but that no decision has been made.

PDF: Sequoyah statement

SEQUOYAH AND SODDY

Sequoyah High School, with 344 students and a focus on career and technical programs, is the most expensive school to operate in the system, costing about $10,300 per pupil to run annually. Soddy-Daisy High School, with an enrollment of nearly 1,600 students, has one of the lowest annual per-pupil costs at about $6,300.

Source: Hamilton County Schools' spokeswoman Danielle Clark

Dr. Scales is not prepared to present anything to the school board at Thursday's meeting, he said.

Combining the two schools would allow Soddy-Daisy students to take advantage of Sequoyah's career and technical classes, while Sequoyah students could participate in extracurricular activities at Soddy-Daisy, officials said.

"The motivating factor for our discussions about pairing Sequoyah with Soddy-Daisy High School is to provide more educational opportunities for students," said Hamilton County Schools' spokeswoman Danielle Clark in a prepared statement. "Budget is a consideration, but it is not the driving force."

If the school board voted to combine the schools, staffing would not be affected, she said.

Ms. Thurman said she and Dr. Scales had discussed several scenarios for the two high schools, but she declined to give specifics. A combining of the two programs would work fine, she said, as long as Sequoyah's enrollment standards remained high.

In 2004, Sequoyah, which is located less than one mile from Soddy-Daisy's campus, shifted its focus from a vocational school to a comprehensive high school.

"Vocational school should not be something you do (as a student) because you can't do anything else," Ms. Thurman said. "There should be no stigma attached to going there."

Mr. Holmes said it was his understanding that Sequoyah was part of a larger discussion about schools across the district with small enrollments and how to make them more cost effective.

Although only about 22 percent of Sequoyah's building now is being used, Mr. Holmes said the vocational education programs can enroll only 48 students each, bringing the school's "program capacity" to 480.