Schools officials push $14 million makeover for Lake Forest Middle School

Schools officials push $14 million makeover for Lake Forest Middle School

March 5th, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Lake Forest Middle School students change classes. While many walkways are covered between pod buildings on the campus, several metal overhangs are prone to leaking during wet weather, said faculty members. Some walkways are not covered at all. Bradley School officials want to see a major makeover for Lake Forest, which encompasses 17 buildings on 75 acres.

Photo by Paul Leach/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Bradley County Schools officials are asking for a $14 million major makeover for the Lake Forest Middle School campus.

On Wednesday, the county's Finance Committee is expected to review the request, which includes a new academic building and a number of improvements to other campus structures.

The school has had long-standing problems with leaking roofs, concrete walls and covered walkways, according to many school board members and county commissioners. Officials also cited the need to centralize the campus, which now accommodates more than 1,100 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders with 17 buildings spread over 75 acres.

"I want to emphasize that the school board and maintenance have done their dead-level best, but we have so much here to overcome," said Ritchie Stevenson, principal at Lake Forest Middle. "There is more here than they can address."

A main campus building to replace a number of free-standing classroom pods would resolve a number of challenges facing students and faculty, Stevenson said.

Such a building would eliminate the need to move outside throughout the day except to access some ancillary facilities, such as the library and the cafeteria.

The campus, originally constructed for Trewhitt Elementary School and Trewhitt Junior High in 1976, was designed for warmer climates such as California or Florida, Stevenson said. In addition to exposure to wet and cold weather during class changes, there is a problem with energy efficiency and climate control inside the pods.

The small buildings quickly lose their heat and air conditioning during extremes in weather, said Robbie Winters, who teaches social studies for the eighth grade.

"All it takes is the doors to be open between classes, and it freezes in there," Winters said.

Bradley County Schools officials are gathering data on the possible energy savings with a centralized academic building.

In a February report on capital improvements for the entire school system, it was estimated that repairs and replacements for windows, air conditioning and roofing exceeded $8 million even without including those needed for Lake Forest Middle School's 17 buildings.

The proposed Lake Forest Middle School makeover has been a recurring topic for education officials and county commissioners since spring 2011, when Bradley County commissioners visited the campus.

Money for the project, which was estimated to cost $12 million a few years ago, has not been forthcoming. The main effort to do so was through a proposed $35 wheel tax, which failed by a large margin in a referendum put before Bradley County voters last August.