published Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Artificial turf eyed for new Rhea high school

  • photo
    Aurora Albaron reloads a creel rack at the Astroturf plant in Dalton, Ga., in this file photo.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.


Some area high schools with artificial turf on their athletic fields are Gordon Lee, Calhoun and Ridgeland in Georgia and Baylor and McCallie in Chattanooga.

DAYTON, Tenn. -- Rhea County High School's football stadium needs an artificial surface to handle the increased use expected when the new high school opens and the current building becomes a middle school, school board members were told.

Director of Schools Jerry Levengood said Thursday he has had estimates of $1.4 million to build a new football field and surrounding track if a contractor handles the entire project. But he said with local support and contributions, "I believe we can do the whole project for $700,000."

He said that when the new high school opens, as many as seven athletic teams, plus the band and JROTC unit, will be competing for time on the field.

Board member Chip Pendergrass said, "If we don't do this, we'll have to build a practice field, and that's going to cost $200,000."

Board members acknowledged the greatest hindrance to proceeding with the project is a lack of money. Money for a new field is not included in the cost of the high school.

In other matters, board members approved a letter calling on state Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman to work toward significant changes in the new statewide teacher evaluation program.

"Administrators are spending too much time in lengthy observations of highly effective teachers," the letter says in part. "Teachers have become focused on themselves, worried that if they don't check everything off on the evaluation rubric, they will be considered failures."

The board cites "many experienced professional educators [who] are advising young people not to see the education field for future employment" because of dissatisfaction with the new process.

"We request that you revise the evaluation process to one that refocuses the attention of teachers and administrators on the needs of children," the letter says.

Steve Hewlett, principal of the firm overseeing construction of the new high school, reported that contract negotiations with subcontractors nearly are complete.

"Originally the bids came in about $2 million under estimates," he said. "I haven't run the numbers yet, but we're in the neighborhood of saving another $400,000 to $500,000 on the contracts."

He also reported that 16 of 17 local companies that bid on the project have been hired as subcontractors.

Tom Davis is based in Dayton. Contact him at

about Tom Davis...

Tom is the director of public information at Bryan College and has been in the Dayton community for 30 years.

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