Talley Construction employee Rico Berto puts fill dirt along the driveway of the new Heritage High School in Catoosa County, Ga. The school, along with Orchard Knob Elementary in Hamilton County, below, is among four new school buildings opening this year in the region.
File photo by Tim Barber
File Photo by Shane McMillan
When school starts next month, several thousand students will walk into new buildings that offer the latest in technology and efficiency. Several more school buildings also will open in coming months.
The community of Signal Mountain welcomes a new middle-high school, while Orchard Knob and Soddy replacement elementary schools will open on the same properties as their predecessor facilities.
Hamilton County Board of Education member Chip Baker, who represents Signal Mountain, said the process to open a high school on the mountain began 50 years ago.
“There have been people who have wondered if it would ever truly happen,” he said.
Principal Eddie Gravitte called the late summer months “fast and furious” around the new $45 million building, as shipments of furniture, equipment, textbooks and library books arrive every day.
“It’s amazing to see how everyone is working on getting this school up and running,” he said. “Everybody that goes up there is amazed with the facilities.”
Work on Orchard Knob and Soddy replacement elementary buildings had to move quickly, since the new facilities are on the same property as the originals. Both replacement schools cost about $12 million.
After classes finished in May, crews took a week to remove existing materials and furniture from the old buildings, two weeks for asbestos abatement required in both schools and four weeks to demolish the old facilities.
The contractors are using all remaining time before school starts to prepare the driveways and parking areas at the new sites, which Gary Waters, associate superintendant of auxiliary services, called “an ambitious schedule.”
“There’s no question about the schools opening on time, it’s just whether the driveways and parking lots will be ready right away,” he said.
The schools in Soddy-Daisy, Orchard Knob and Signal Mountain were part of a $152 million building program under way in the Hamilton County Schools district.
Soddy Elementary principal Lee Ann Mills said she is looking forward to finally occupying the new building, which last year was under construction while class was held next door in the old building.
“When the kids come in for the first time, they’re going to be awed,” she said. “It’s gorgeous.”
In nearby Catoosa County, Ga., which has seen robust population growth, the nearly $42 million Heritage High School will open to relieve crowding at Ringgold High School.
A new Hixson Middle School, under construction adjacent to Hixson High School, will open in January 2009. The $22.2 million facility will replace the old school about one mile away. Students, teachers and staff are expected to make the move in January.
Construction continues on a middlehigh school in East Hamilton County, which is scheduled to open fall 2009.
Architects have been chosen for East Ridge Elementary School and Red Bank Middle School. Both schools are in the design phase.
NEW THIS YEAR
■ Orchard Knob Elementary
400 N. Orchard Knob Ave.
■ Signal Mountain Middle-High
2650 Sam Powell Trail
■ Soddy Elementary
260 School St.
■ Heritage High
3960 Poplar Springs Road
NEW IN JANUARY
■ Hixson Middle
5681 Old Hixson Pike
NEW IN AUGUST 2009
■ East Hamilton Middle-High
2015 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road
E-mail Kelli Gauthier at email@example.com
Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...