published Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Architect selected for Cleveland, Tenn., school

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Cleveland City Schools board has chosen an architect for a proposed elementary school to be built on a 20-acre site on Georgetown Road.

On Monday, the board voted 7-0 to use Upland Design, citing past experience with the firm and its flexibility and vision. Upland Design was picked from six architectural companies that recently made presentations to the board.

"This is hard to look at these good architects and to stay above the fray, to stay above the politics ... to say who is going to be excited about building our school," board member Dawn Robinson said.

In addition to a proposed capacity of 700 students, concerns about safety, aesthetics and traffic control also must be addressed, board members said.

"We all want more than just four walls," said Tom Cloud, chairman of the Cleveland City Schools board.

Board members agreed the site's natural setting, which includes a creek, should be a factor in the school's design. A school building that would fit in with the city's downtown would not be appropriate, they said.

Outdoor spaces and natural light ought to be considered, said Robinson, citing feedback on the new school she received from a number of teachers.

A balance between taking advantage of the location's natural beauty and keeping students secure is paramount, board members said.

"Security is important, but let's not have a knee-jerk reaction and build a prison," board member Murl Dirksen said.

Taking measures to accommodate student dropoffs and pickups would be necessary, the board agreed. Some members expressed concern about possible limitations the state might place on traffic signaling on Georgetown Road, which is part of state Route 60.

The site for the proposed elementary school is undergoing ground preparation.

The $1.125 million parcel was purchased two months ago after the school board and the Cleveland City Council agreed to split the cost, which included $300,000 for site preparation. Both the city and the city schools system are relying on funds associated with a $1.4 million settlement from Bradley County, the result of a disputed allocation of sales tax revenue increases implemented by the city and county in 2009.

School officials said the facility is estimated to cost $15 million, and they would like it to be operational by fall 2015.

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