published Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Cleveland, Tenn., schools plan for growth

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    Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — In a recent planning retreat, the Cleveland school board discussed how to meet the needs of a growing student population.

Providing a safe and secure environment for students is a top concern, said Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools. He cited anti-bullying initiatives, campus security and facility integrity.

"[Bullying] is the No. 1 litigated topic in the country right now, so we want to make sure we are not behind the eight-ball and we are being very proactive with it," Ringstaff said.

Officials said bullying is not easy for school staff to monitor because it often happens when no adults are around. Sometimes bullying starts away from campus but children then bring it to school, board member Dawn Robinson said.

Controlling visitor access to school grounds and minimizing potential threats were other concerns. The officials said Bythe-Bower Elementary needed some remodeling to direct traffic flow to its administrative office.

Board members voted to give E.L. Ross Elementary School funding priority for maintenance, saying it needs new carpets and tiles.

The school dates from the mid-1970s and its air-conditioning system will need replacing, said Bob True, maintenance and transportation director.

Projected funding for maintenance is uncertain, said Brenda Carson, business manager for the school system. Although sales tax revenues have been good, she said no one knows if that will continue.

The board also discussed long-range plans for growth. Bradley County is projecting 35,000 more residents within 20 years.

Cleveland Senior Planner Greg Thomas said most of the growth likely will happen in 10 years, and he estimated that 15 percent of those new residents would be school-age children.

A more immediate concern, said school officials, is the proposed construction of an elementary school in the Hardwick Farms area near North Lee Highway. The school is needed to alleviate overcrowding, said Ringstaff.

A proposed $32 wheel tax, a referendum item on the Aug. 2 ballot in Bradley County, could provide the revenue to build the school, said school officials. The tax would be assessed on every new vehicle registered in the county.

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