CLEVELAND, Tenn.—Blue Springs Elementary School, demolished by the April 27 tornadoes, will not be rebuilt or repaired at its present location.
The Bradley County School Board made the unanimous decision Thursday.
The board also voted unanimously to authorize Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel to negotiate with the owner of property on Blue Springs Road at Old Federal Road for a new school site less than two miles from the current location.
“We’ve had a lot of discussion about this, and I think we need to move forward,” said board member Christy Critchfield. “I want the Blue Springs community to know we are going to be proactive.”
The current school had problems even before the tornado hit it, board members said.
“We have been advised many times it is not safe,” Chairman Troy Weathers said. “If there had been students in the hallway [during the tornado,] there would have been casualties.”
The tornado hit at night.
One of the other problems with the current site, McDaniel said, is the portable classrooms. Without those trailers, he said, Blue Springs would not have the student population needed to meet state Basic Education Program funding. But with the portables, children must cross a driveway every day to get to the main building, whatever the weather, he said.
“That’s not OK with me,” McDaniel said.
Meanwhile, negotiations are under way between the school system’s insurance company and architects over the extent — and therefore the cost — of the damage. The architectural firm Kaatz Binkley is representing the school system and negotiations could be lengthy, board members said.
Last month, the board approved a bus plan to distribute Blue Springs students among other county schools.
Michigan Avenue Elementary School, also damaged by the storms, will be ready for the school year in August, McDaniel said, although the gymnasium won’t be rebuilt by then.
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 ...