The East Brainerd area will have a new elementary school next school year.
Hamilton County Commission used money from its general fund to purchase David Brainerd Christian School for the public school system.
"It was the fiscally responsible thing to do instead of trying to find land and buy land," said District 7 School Board representative Linda Mosley. "If you look out in the East Brainerd area there's really no property to acquire with the kind of acreage we would need to construct a facility." Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger stressed that the more than $3 million did not come from the School Board's budget, which currently shows a $14 million deficit.
The school will accept fourth- and fifth-grade students currently zoned for East Brainerd Elementary in the fall.
"We had to do something; we absolutely could not put another body in there," Mosley said, noting an expected 30 percent increase in East Brainerd Elementary's student enrollment next year. "Since we don't know exactly what enrollment will be next year, we don't know what kind of overcrowding we will have in K through 3."
Based on current enrollment at East Brainerd Elementary, the split elementary school will not be at capacity, she said, adding she's "fairly confident it will address the need we have." The new school building, opened as the private David Brainerd School in 2004, is "adequate" for now, she said.
"All the schools in East Brainerd are experiencing overcrowding," said Mosley.
Westview Elementary, which is over capacity, is another story, said Mosley.
East Hamilton Middle/High School also has overcrowding issues "which we still have to deal with." While the trend is combining schools, Mosley said the school system will be able to support the addition of a new, small elementary school.
"We would have had those same students at East Brainerd [Elementary] anyway," Mosley said. "We're not increasing the population at the school by redistricting in any way, we're just relocating it." Several new teachers will be required, according to Mosley, but she said this would have been the case even without the new building. She said the only real new staff that will be needed is an assistant principal, a secretary and perhaps a librarian.
At some point in the future, the school will be renovated.
"It's not quite to the standard we would normally build," Mosley said. "At some point in time we plan to take down the classroom space and rebuild there and make it more to the standard we have at Hamilton County." District 2 School Board representative Chip Baker estimates it costs $25 million to build a new elementary school from the ground up.