CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The announcement of Volkswagen’s plans to build an assembly plant in Hamilton County underscores the need for more technology training in schools and a new science wing at Cleveland High School, city school board members said this week.
“I can’t tell you how important finishing that science wing is,” board member Bill Brown said.
Board members said the creation of thousands of technology-related jobs in the area means local students need to be competitive.
And there’s another kind of competition coming, member Peggy Pesterfield said.
“We will be in competition for contractors and subcontractors if we don’t act quickly,” she said.
VW officials have pushed an accelerated construction schedule and a 2011 opening date for the plant.
Chairwoman Dawn Robinson agreed that as the Volkswagen construction gets into gear, “tradespeople will be hard to come by.”
A focus group last year studied how to build the science wing, a $7 million project that also will change the outside look of the high school. Architects at Upland Design Group have made preliminary drawings but the city hasn’t promised any money for construction.
City leaders and city school officials have said they might get some money for the project if the county decides to build a new elementary school to accommodate population growth.
If the county raises money to build a new school, the city would get a one-third share, based on student population.
“We need to be challenging our friends at the county to get this going,” Mr. Brown said.
City Schools Director Rick Denning presented the board with a list of capital projects across the school system. The science wing is at the top of the list.
Board members asked Dr. Denning to put aside the science wing as a separate project and prioritize the top 10 projects that could be done for a total of $1 million limit. Both lists will be presented to the Cleveland City Council during its fall planning retreat.
The school system never completes its list of priorities at any single school before addressing problems at another school, Dr. Denning said.
He said the system needs a recurring, reliable source of money for capital needs such as buses and roofs. One idea among others, he said, would be to raise the local sales tax the extra half cent allowed by the state and devote the proceeds to school capital projects.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...