published Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

New elementary, resurfaced track on Cleveland Schools' wish list

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    This is the field track at Cleveland High School.
    Photo by Paul Leach.
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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- A new elementary school and a resurfaced running track for Cleveland High School are upcoming needs, according to city school officials.

The overcrowding in city schools and expected growth of the student population have been described as "a crisis" by Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools.

The system has grown by 800 students in the last eight years, with the heaviest growth in the last two years.

Mayfield Elementary particularly has been affected by growth, Ringstaff said. Last year the school enrolled 572 students, but it was designed for only 440.

City schools officials have discussed building a new elementary school in the Hardwick Farms area, near North Lee Highway, as a way to take pressure off Mayfield Elementary.

In a recent planning retreat, officials discussed the pros and cons of putting a new school in that area.

Cleveland senior planner Greg Thomas said that, although the area is "substantially underdeveloped" in regard to sewers and other infrastructure, it has access to two major traffic corridors.

If proposed community development plans go forward, they would give the city an opportunity to create an elementary school within walking distance for some of its students, Thomas said.

City schools officials have said they see a proposed $32 wheel tax -- a referendum item on the Thursday primary ballot in Bradley County -- as a way of funding the new school. It is estimated that the tax would provide Cleveland City Schools with enough borrowing power for $11 million.

"If the wheel tax fails, our next step is to go to our funding source, the Cleveland City Council," school board member Dawn Robinson said. "We need new schools."

School and public needs intertwine at Cleveland High School's track, which is showing accelerated wear and tear, according to high school officials. The 5-year-old track, located near the city's greenway and open to the public, has worn away twice as fast as expected because of heavy usage. Stormwater also occasionally causes problems, officials said.

The track, which is closed to the public only in the afternoons between February and May, was funded through a joint venture between the school system and the city.

"The track is used by everybody," city school board member Murl Dirksen said. "We need to talk to the city about sharing costs again."

Officials are researching costs to resurface the track.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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