Area schools wait for new facilities

Area schools wait for new facilities

April 4th, 2013 by Emily Crisman in Local Regional News

Hamilton County Schools officials have identified several schools in north Hamilton County that are in need of additions and repairs, and now the question is which projects will receive funding first (refer to article at www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/mar/27/parents-lobby-elected-officials-for-new-schools).

The only north Hamilton County project in the first phase of the latest facilities plan, which has already been approved by the School Board, is an addition or new building at Sale Creek Middle/High School. Other projects in Phase 1 include a replacement for Ooltewah Elementary, which is already under construction, and one for East Brainerd Elementary, which is set to be bid for construction later this year, as well as additions or renovations at Wolftever Creek and Snowhill elementaries, also in east Hamilton County, and Nolan Elementary atop Signal Mountain.

"Right now, because I don't know what funding will be available, my recommendation as the facilities committee chairman is to go ahead and construct the additions at Wolftever and Nolan and address the Sale Creek issue and forego the addition at Snowhill," said HCDE School Board member and Facilities Committee Chairman Mike Evatt.

Projects in Phase 2 are some of the more pressing projects identified, he said. Phase 1 is the only one to have already been approved by the School Board.

The projects listed under Phase 2 include replacements for Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts and Ganns and Falling Water elementaries, as well as a replacement for Harrison Elementary and renovations or additions at Soddy-Daisy Middle and Lakeside Elementary.

"It doesn't sound like we're going to get enough funding to do three additions and construct two new schools," Evatt said. "The big question is which one is it going to be? Is it going to be CSLA or Ganns?"

Parents and students at Ganns Middle Valley Elementary recently put on a presentation for elected officials pleading for an adequate and safe facility to house the school's 580 students. The next day, Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts debuted a video at its Celebration of Learning event detailing why parents feel its building should be replaced.

"We take everything as a factor," said Evatt, as to how the committee decides what projects receive funding.

CSLA has been on the committee's list since 1999 and has been repeatedly put off, according to him.

"The recommendation with this school is making it a K-12 school," said Evatt. "I foresee that helping to relieve crowding at East Hamilton and Ooltewah."

When a new Ganns Middle Valley Elementary is built, Falling Water Elementary will close and the two schools will be combined, he added.

"Closing a 100-year-old school [Falling Water] and a 70-year-old school [Ganns] is something that needs to happen," said Evatt. "I'd love to see both [CSLA and Ganns] constructed at the same time and I think they need to happen at the same time."

District 3 School Board Representative Greg Martin said he sees Ganns as the top priority for construction in his district.

"Not only is the school old and out-of-date, it's overcrowded," he said, adding that a magnet school such as CSLA could move to an underutilized building in the system as opposed to being built a brand new building. "[With a neighborhood school such as Ganns] there's no option except for it to fall down or be rebuilt."

He said Ganns was at 103 percent capacity in 1999, and enrollment has since grown by 17 percent. While Martin feels Sale Creek deserves attention, he said the school's growth in enrollment in the past four years, at 8 percent, is not as significant as Ganns' and the Sale Creek building is still relatively new.

Several north Hamilton County schools are also included in Phase 3, including replacements for Alpine Crest, DuPont and Rivermont elementaries in north Hamilton County. Phase 3 projects in other areas are an addition to Signal Mountain Middle/High School, a new East Brainerd Elementary and East Hamilton Middle School and additions at Central High School.

Evatt said he foresees the board approving a more detailed facility plan before the end of the school year that will also indicate which, if any, new schools are constructed.