Cyclone Center looks for new home

By Thomas Wilson

A rising numbers of medical staff members has Sycamore Shoals Hospital looking for new office space -- a search that is pressing Elizabethton City Schools to find a new home for the Cyclone Center.
The school system presently leases a portion of the 9,000 square-foot Bemberg medical building owned by the hospital. The leased space is home to the Cyclone Center, the system's Pre-K education program.
"As we are growing our medical population, we are finding a need for that space," said Scott Williams, president and chief executive officer of Sycamore Shoals Hospital.
A possible new home for the Cyclone Center is the former Emergency Child Shelter building on Parkway Boulevard. The shelter had been a contracted facility which housed juvenile wards of the state. The Tennessee Department of Children's Services ended the shelter's right to house juveniles at the shelter after a contract between the state and the department expired June 30, 2002. Ownership of the building subsequently reverted back to the city.
Williams said former ECS director of schools, Dr. Dale Lynch, asked to rent space in the building more than two years ago to establish the Cyclone Center. The hospital gladly obliged but cautioned that if the medical staff population grew, ending the lease agreement could be necessary, Williams said. Blue Ridge Medical Management has had the building up for sale for several months, he added.
The Elizabethton Board of Education voted 5-0 at a meeting last week to advise the city of Elizabethton government that the system was interested in using the building.
He said the hospital had recruited more physicians over the past two years resulting in tighter office space. Williams said the hospital wanted to give the system plenty of advance notice to allow ECS administrators to plan accordingly.
"We don't want to kick them out," Williams said. "We're not giving a 120-day notice we have in our contract."
The Cyclone Center has been home to the pre-K education program for the past two years. The center provides pre-K education for roughly 65 children including special needs and general population students. The center is staffed with four teachers certified in early childhood education as well as five teaching assistants and two part-time assistants.
"It has been a great program servicing the children in our community," said Kim Lavin, ECS director of special education. "We've had a lot of benefit out of it."
Lavin said the pre-K program was started through a state grant and has been funded from federal Title I money. Occupational therapy, and vision therapy services for special needs students are also available through the program.
Students attend Monday through Friday, six hours each day and also receive a monthly home visit from a program representative. The program schedule is based on state guidelines and requirements based on state grant funding.
"We also work with elementary schools to provide transition activities for the upcoming kindergartners," said Lavin.