FEMA grant to help build Walker Valley classrooms

FEMA grant to help build Walker Valley classrooms

November 22nd, 2012 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel

Photo by Paul Leach/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Bradley County Schools will receive more than $1 million in hazard mitigation grant money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help build an eight-classroom pod at Walker Valley High School.

The capital project -- which may cost up to $344,000 in local funding, according to Bradley County Schools Finance Director Rick Smith -- is intended to alleviate overcrowding at the high school. The school now enrolls 1,500 students but was built for 1,200.

Education officials said the pod was awarded the grant because it will be constructed to resist catastrophic storms. The project is expected to take 10 months to complete, making it likely the new building will be operational after the 2013 fall break, Smith said.

The pod was one of three capital projects intended to receive borrowing power from revenues generated by a county wheel tax, which failed in an August referendum. The other projects include renovations to Lake Forest Middle School and land for a new elementary school in southern Bradley County.

"The needs are still there," Johnny McDaniel, director of Bradley County Schools, said recently of the unfunded projects.

Earlier this week, the county school board created the Capital Outlay Expenditures Committee to explore policies for gathering comprehensive information to aid planning for capital projects.

The board does a good job in making decisions and the committee only seeks to improve its ability to make those decisions, committee Chairman Chris Turner said. The committee does not intend to recommend policies and procedures that will dictate the decision-making process, he said.

"It is easy to adapt policy," Turner said.

As an example, Turner cited a recent project to overhaul the school system's phone network. He expressed concern that a question about what should be done with the schools' existing communication equipment was not settled until after the board voted.

Turner, who is joined on the committee by school board members Christy Critchfield and Nicholas Lillios, has set a goal of providing a draft policy to the school board in January.

The board's executive committee will remain in charge of capital expenditure planning, school officials said.