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Proposal to change ownership at York Institute

6:02 PM, Mar 19, 2013   |    comments
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A proposal from a Chattanooga state representative and a Memphis-area state senator could bring a big change to a historical high school.

The Alvin C. York Institute, built in 1926 by WWI hero Alvin C. York, is currently controlled by the state. With more than 700 students attending the Jamestown high school, it is the largest in the county.

"The bond of the York Institute expands beyond Fentress County. It expands into Scott County, Oneida," said Philip Hall, a parent and county school board member.

Legislation proposed by Chattanooga representative Gerald McCormick and Memphis-area Senator Mark Norris would transfer the school from state control and funding to the county level.

It has been proposed several times in the past, but the school board says it has already reached committees -- a level that has not happened before.

"It's doubling the load that Fentress County has at this point in time, more than doubling, because a high school is the most expensive levels of education that you have," said Randy Clark with the board of education.

Currently, the Fentress County school system has a large percentage funded by the state with county taxpayers picking 16-percent of the remaining budget.

If the institute is handed over to the county, Clark said there may be no choice but to start cutting the budget, increase taxes or both. The budget for the institute this year is $6.8 million.

"Should that roll over to that board, they would have to make the decision to fund it and staff it at the current level or not," Clark added.

As for the future of this historic high school, parent Hall does not know right now.

"...it's discouraging," he said.

The Fentress County Board of Education stressed the idea of a closure would not happen if this passed. A senate committee is scheduled to take up the issue Wednesday. No word yet on when it would be up for vote.

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