With the Hamilton County school board's $125 million facilities plan approved, students from Tyner Middle will soon move into Tyner Academy to form Tyner Middle/High, though that merge may not take place for two, possibly three, years, school officials say.
The merge will enable students from Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts to leave their current 68-year-old building — which parents say is plagued with decay, mice and mold — and move into the 58-year-old facility that now serves as Tyner Middle Academy.
The decision reflects Superintendent Bryan Johnson's push to maximize building efficiency by addressing schools built for more students than are enrolled, as opposed to putting more money into buildings that are already beyond repair.
"This is the first step to getting us to move forward as a system," Johnson said of the overall facilities plan during last month's school board meeting. "We want to be very thoughtful about what we do."
Both Tyner Middle and Tyner Academy were placed on the list of underutilized facilities, along with Lookout Valley Middle/High.
Lee McDade, the district's assistant superintendent of student services, said both Tyner schools are capable of holding approximately 1,000 students, but state records show that Tyner Middle has steadily enrolled about 460 students over the last five years, while Tyner Academy has enrolled about 560 during that same time frame. CSLA's student population currently sits around 430 but its enrollment numbers have slowly increased over the past five years.
"We haven't seen much growth in the Tyner area," McDade said, explaining that most of the growth is farther out in Ooltewah and East Brainerd. "That's not been an issue."
Before the Tyner schools are merged, both facilities will undergo a series of renovations costing an estimated $20 million, McDade said. The work is expected to take care of the buildings' deferred maintenance issues.
The renovations at Tyner Academy will include classroom expansions and a second gym for the incoming middle schoolers, a new HVAC system to replace the building's window units, and new energy efficient windows, which will update the look of the facility while providing long-term savings, school officials said.
The tentative start date for work on the buildings is December 2017 with an anticipated completion date of January 2020. McDade said students at the high school might need to be moved out of certain areas during refurbishing, but added that the work shouldn't disrupt the educational process. Once the renovations at Tyner Academy are complete, the middle school students will move in and renovations at Tyner Middle will begin in preparation for CSLA's move once the work has concluded.
Though some early renderings have been drawn, McDade said nothing is set in stone just yet, and discussions are still yet to be had about any post-merge changes in school operations.
"It's really early in the process," he said. "I think a lot of facts will come out and hopefully everybody will be happy with it."