Education

Vroooooom With a View

By Lani Harac — January 01, 2003 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
A Tennessee school finds breathing room at the speedway.

When Deborah Nottingham began teaching math at Sullivan East High School this past August, she thought she was settling in for the year. But less than two months later, she and her colleagues—and their 1,000 students—were told to stay home because health concerns at the facility had administrators racing to find new digs.

It was a combination of community solidarity and good timing that got the kids back to school a week later. They might have complained about the abrupt end to their impromptu vacation but for the novelty of attending classes at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Principal Mary Rouse discovered in early October that the Bluff City, Tennessee, high school had fallen prey to stachybotrys, a toxic black mold that causes allergic reactions, including headaches, skin rash, and asthma. When Jeff Byrd, general manager of the racetrack, offered the use of its luxury sky boxes to Sullivan East for free, the school board voted unanimously to accept the offer.

“The majority of us had never even been inside these suites,” said Rouse, who rode around the track in a race car during the students’ second week there. “The fact that you’re having a class in these nice, cushioned, plush seats—you’re just in awe.”

By all accounts, speedway schooling wasn’t free of challenges. “We’re having to be very creative in how we teach,” said Nottingham . “We have the big windows in front, so there are some distractions. We’re having to watch the kids a whole lot more here.”

But the facility also provided unique opportunities. Using the track’s curved, 36-degree banks as inspiration, Nottingham created algebra problems for her kids to solve. And vocational ed students studied blueprints of the racetrack and welded some of its light fixtures.

Though its relocation solution was unique, the mold problems Sullivan East experienced weren’t. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, half of the country’s 115,000 public schools have poor air quality. In a number of cases, the problem is black mold, which grows in wet or humid areas and often demands that facilities be sealed off, sometimes permanently.

The kids of “B.M.S. High” used about 70 of the speedway’s 100- plus sky boxes until Sullivan East reopened in mid-November. Before the school year finishes, they’re expected to make at least one trip back: Each student was given two free tickets to the NASCAR Busch Series race in March.

—Lani Harac

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Education Civil Rights Groups Sue Tennessee Over Law Against Transgender Student Athletes
The state law bars transgender athletes from playing public high school or middle school sports aligned with their gender identity.
3 min read
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Mark Humphrey/AP