Community News Hamilton County Department of Education launches community survey

Community News Hamilton County Department of Education launches community survey

October 4th, 2017 by Staff Report in Community Metro

Sarah Lane puts her suggestion for a "bold idea" on a board at an August welcome reception for new Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson hosted by the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, Chattanooga 2.0, and UnifiEd. Johnson last week announced a community survey related to $100 million in new money for school capital projects. (Staff photo by Doug Strickland)

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

The Hamilton County Department of Education has launched a survey to gain community input on the district's capital building plan.

The move comes after the Hamilton County Commission allocated $100 million in new money for school capital projects.

The goal of the survey is not to identify specific schools that need repair or rebuilding or other projects, but to hear what is important to the community as a whole, according to a news release from the department.

"We are extremely grateful for the $100 million commitment to address the capital needs of the school system," said Superintendent Bryan Johnson in a statement. "... We recognize that over the course of the next few weeks, many eyes will be watching to ensure the strategic usage of these funds."

According to a news release, the department will use the money to focus on four areas: growth, efficient usage of buildings based on student capacity, buildings that are beyond repair and maintenance that has been delayed.

In addition to the survey, department officials will dig into the comprehensive needs list approved by the board in February, according to the release. The department also will review the regional planning agency's information for which areas are experiencing the most community growth, as well as information gathered from neighboring school districts.

"We will combine what is reviewed with what the community communicates as priorities to make an informed decision about how to best spend the $100 million," the release states.

In the coming months, an external reviewer will conduct a district-wide evaluation of all of the schools in an effort to develop a long-range building plan to address the capital needs beyond the initial investment of $100 million.

A few weeks ago, in an open letter, local nonprofit advocacy group UnifiEd called for such an evaluation to be completed. The letter called for an unbiased assessment of schools' safety issues due to put-off maintenance, student capacity, building quality and the estimated cost to repair or replace schools, as well as a multi-year plan to tackle those needs.

"While this is an exciting time for [the school system], the system acknowledges there is $300 million in deferred maintenance and growth needs," the release states. "This means additional revenue streams will be required to bring our buildings up to standard and to prepare for future growth."

Access the survey at tinyurl.com/hcdesurvey2017.


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