An addition to Nolan Elementary is listed in "Phase 1" of Hamilton County Department of Education's latest facilities plan.
Other building projects also included in the phased - but not prioritized - plan, such as replacing the dilapidated Ganns Middle Valley Elementary as well as the long-overdue replacement of Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, have been placed in later phases (refer to article at www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/mar/27/parents-lobby-elected-officials-for-new-schools).
"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 board and committee Chairman Mike Evatt. "It doesn't sound like we're going to get enough funding to do three additions and construct two new schools. The big question is which one is it going to be. Is it going to be CSLA or Ganns?"
Phase 1 has reportedly been the only phase approved so far.
"I wouldn't say [Nolan] is prioritized over Ganns by any means," said School Board District 2 representative Jonathan Welch, a Signal Mountain resident who represents the mountain, Red Bank and part of Rivermont. "We are totally out of classroom space both at Thrasher [Elementary] and at Nolan."
Nolan principal Shane Harwood said his school building is at capacity with 675 students. Nolan has received a new classroom teacher each year for six out of the past eight years, he said, and if one more is added, he will have to convert the computer lab into a classroom and use a half-sized room to facilitate the computer lab.
School officials have been reported as saying the facilities plan priorities need to be areas seeing the biggest population growth (refer to article at www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/mar/14/smith-prioritizes-school-list).
"I believe the district is trying to be really proactive in planning for growth," said Harwood. "Within our zone we have three to four new subdivisions, two of which have already been established. We're selling homes left and right."
Welch explained that much of the growth in the elementary schools is due to the mountaintop population shifting toward young families with children instead of empty-nesters. With new subdivisions in the works such as Wild Ridge at Fox Run, he added that soon more homes will likely contribute to the elementary schools' population, which is already busting at the seams.
"Families are looking for a good school environment to send their kids to," said Welch. "[The schools] are continually rated very good, rated very high in achievement."
Though Thrasher Elementary is also overcrowded with around 580 students, there is no simple way to add on space at the school, so there are no plans for an addition in the future, according to Welch.
That is not the case at Signal Mountain Middle/High School.
"As soon as we have an addition at Nolan, those kids will move on to the high school," Welch said. "And they [SMMHS] are also past capacity."
The high school was originally built for about 1,200 students but now holds 1,300-plus students, he said. It is listed in Phase 3 of the recently released facilities plan.
Nolan, which will soon end its 14th school year, was built with a future addition in mind, said Harwood. The new addition would be built out of the fifth- and second-grade wings and would house 11 new classrooms (about 220 more students).
"The folks that are talking about needs in other districts ... they are exactly right," said Harwood. "There are great needs throughout the district."