Opening of new East Brainerd Elementary delayed a year

Opening of new East Brainerd Elementary delayed a year

August 27th, 2013 by Kevin Hardy in Local Regional News

Rendering of the new East Brainerd Elementary.

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Gary Waters, Hamilton County Department of Education Assistant Superintendent

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Parents, students and teachers at East Brainerd Elementary School will have to wait another year for a new school.

Hamilton County Schools officials say there have been too many delays to meet the new school's aggressive timeline of an August 2014 opening. Instead, the school is now set to open in the fall of 2015.

A new 145,000-square-foot East Brainerd Elementary is planned to be built on the site of the former David Brainerd Christian School.

The Hamilton County Commission, which funds new school construction, put the brakes on the East Brainerd project in June 2012, because of a proposed three-way land swap among the school system, the city of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Housing Authority. County commissioners thought the school system was getting a raw deal on the swap, so they slowed down the architect selection process. The commission broke the deadlock in September of 2012, allowing the school to move forward.

But that wasn't East Brainerd's only roadblock. The commission asked planners to explore keeping some or all of the existing David Brainerd building. And the school system had to work out a plan with the city to extend a portion of Goodwin Road.

Those issues, coupled with the school's aggressive schedule made a 2014 deadline a stretch, said Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry.

"My my way of thinking on the school is it needs to be done right," Henry said. "It doesn't need to be rushed."

The new East Brainerd building will replace a crowded and outdated facility on East Brainerd Road, as well as the David Brainerd School, which is currently being used for overflow students. The replacement school, which will eventually house up to 1,100 students, was a key part of a 2012 rezoning package that would alleviate crowding at schools on the county's east side like Westview Elementary and Bess T. Shepherd Elementary.

But those schools can hold on another year, said Gary Waters, Hamilton County's assistant superintendent for auxiliary services.

"We're OK right now," Waters said. "It was going to be the safety valve that took a little pressure off."

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at 423-757-6249 or khardy@timesfreepress.com.