published Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Blue Springs Elementary School authorized for demolition

Bradley County's Blue Springs Elementary School was hard hit by the April 27 tornadoes.
Bradley County's Blue Springs Elementary School was hard hit by the April 27 tornadoes.
Photo by Randall Higgins.
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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Board of Education has authorized the demolition of the tornado-damaged Blue Springs Elementary School building.

At its Thursday night meeting, the board also authorized schools Director Johnny McDaniel to formalize what he said is an oral agreement to buy 20 acres on which to build a new Blue Springs school.

The site, on Blue Springs Road, has been offered for sale at $13,000 an acre for a total of $260,000 plus closing costs. The transaction is contingent on soil tests, officials said.

Those were among several steps taken to help the school system recover from the April 27 tornadoes and storms.

Meanwhile, work is under way to prepare storm-damaged Michigan Avenue Elementary School to be ready for classes in August.

Classrooms will be ready, Principal Robert Brittingham said. But morning and evening traffic patterns will change, he said, because one of the two driveways is blocked for gymnasium construction.

Michigan Avenue’s storm-damaged gym is being rebuilt to current codes and for expanded storage space. The improvements will be paid for from the school system’s capital outlay money.

“There are no new funds,” Board Chairman Troy Weathers said.

The demolition and land purchase for Blue Springs will be funded from an insurance settlement.

“If we have to pre-spend, then we will pre-spend and reimburse ourselves from those insurance funds,” McDaniel said.

County officials have said they are concerned about public safety around the damaged Blue Springs building. It has been fenced and signs posted to stay out. Locks have been changed, too. The school gymnasium building can be repaired as a storage facility for now and possibly turned over to the Bradley County Commission later, according to officials.

No personnel at Blue Springs will lose their jobs because of the storms, McDaniel said. They are filling jobs that already were open due to retirements and moves around the school system. Those placements, in turn, freed up some money already budgeted for jobs at Blue Springs, he said.

David Kelley, a school board member and head of the multicounty prekindergarten program, said that “by strategically placing these portables at our schools, we will be able to free up some classroom space.”

The Family Resource Center has the funds to refurbish the portables and the county does not, McDaniel said.

The temporary closing of Blue Springs creates a domino effect at some other schools. Waterville Community Elementary will be the school home to many Blue Springs children now. That school’s census could zoom to nearly 600 by the time school starts, Principal Charlene Cofer said.

The board authorized McDaniel to use an unfilled Blue Springs position to assign a person to be assistant principal at Waterville if he deems it necessary.

“Six hundred kids are an awful lot for one principal,” Weathers said.

The tornadoes also demolished a portable building the school system used for its technology department. The board authorized McDaniel to complete the purchase of a building at 283 Smith Drive to house the technology department and other administrators, such as a school psychologist.

Appraised at $300,000, the building is being offered to the school system at $200,000 plus closing costs. The money will come from federal funds the system set aside last year.

about Randall Higgins...

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 ...

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