published Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Apartments to stress capacity of Yates Primary and E.L. Ross Elementary schools

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    Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The growth of new apartments has turned overcrowding at two city elementary schools into a major issue, the city schools chief says.

At a recent meeting, the Cleveland city school board discussed how new apartments soon will affect the capacity of Yates Primary and E.L. Ross Elementary schools.

"Our schools are already full," said Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools. "I just ask the board that as we move forward, [we need to consider that] Ross-Yates just became a major issue."

The two schools are located next to each other on Mouse Creek Road. Yates has kindergarten through second grade, while E.L. Ross has third through fifth grades.

Ross-Yates will not be able to sustain the expected growth associated with two apartment complexes that will provide homes for more than 600 families, Ringstaff said. A 324-unit development on Adkisson Drive is expected to break ground this fall, while more units are planned for Spring Creek.

"We are hoping our City Council and County Commission understand that this kind of growth, this quick — we've got to do something about that," Ringstaff said.

City school officials have proposed building a new elementary school in the Hardwick Farms area near North Lee Highway to alleviate overcrowding at Mayfield Elementary School, which now has more than 550 students at a facility intended to serve 450.

"We use every space available to us," Mayfield Principal Dee Dee Finison said at a previous board meeting. "We even use the theater stage for classroom space."

Funding for the proposed school came to a dead end when voters rejected a $32 wheel tax referendum in August.

The tax would have generated enough revenue to provide borrowing power for $11 million for the city school system, which officials said would be close enough to the estimated $15 million cost to move forward with the new elementary school.

Bradley County Schools faces similar overcrowding problems, as well as renovation needs that require significant capital investment, county education officials said.

"We plan to meet again with county commissioners and bring our needs before them," said Johnny McDaniel, director of Bradley County Schools, at a recent county school board meeting.

Any funding generated for county schools means good news for city schools, as well. According to an agreement based on student populations in the two school systems, Cleveland City Schools receives $1 for every $2 raised for Bradley County Schools.

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