Chattanooga's first elementary charter school has found a home.
Chattanooga Charter School of Excellence will take over the lease of the Henry branch of the YMCA at Eastgate Town Center when the health club closes the facility in March.
The 21,000-square-foot facility comes ready-made with several features ideal for a school, including classroom space, a gymnasium and an outdoor play area.
"We really looked all over," said Marcia Griffin, the school's executive director, who signed a 10-year lease for the building.
Griffin originally had planned to find a location for her school in Highland Park.
The charter school will provide transportation to any student who lives more than two miles from campus, she said.
Hamilton County Board of Education members approved the charter application last June, after rejecting the first application.
Two other charter schools operate in Hamilton County — Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy and Ivy Academy.
Because the YMCA already has many amenities the school needs, school administrators will focus mostly on making the building more "kid-friendly" by painting the walls bright colors and replacing the carpet with tile.
When the charter opens its doors for the first day of classes Aug. 15, Griffin plans to have about 125 students, half of them boys and half of them girls. If space allows, however, she said she would consider accepting more students in grades K-2.
The school is accepting applications. Griffin said if she receives more applications than the number of spaces available, the school will use a lottery system to pick its students.
Ruel Harrison, a board member of the new school, said as the start date draws near, he gets more excited about what he calls the "higher-level, liberal arts approach" of the charter school.
"Standardized tests are very skills-oriented. But we need to build content knowledge; the skills will come," he said.
PARENT INFORMATION SESSIONS
When, where: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 21. Neighborhood Watch Association meeting, the Villages at Alton Park
When, where: 6 p.m. Feb. 22. Kidd's World Daycare Center, 1905 Tunnel Blvd.
When, where: 6 p.m. Feb. 23. Hope for the Inner City, 1800 Roanoke Ave.
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, ...