With one new elementary school already under way, Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith took a major step Thursday toward beginning another one to replace East Brainerd Elementary School.
A majority of county commissioners signaled that they'll vote officially next week to form a committee to pick an architect to design the school.
Commissioners Chester Bankston, Greg Beck, Tim Boyd, Jim Fields and Larry Henry said they support selecting an architect.
Gary Waters, who oversees facilities for the school system, said school administrators want to bring in an architect to recommend which buildings to replace or keep at the 20-acre site of the former David Brainerd School on Igou Gap Road.
More than 700 students are enrolled on both campuses of East Brainerd Elementary, and Smith said he expects more growth.
"We are seeing significant growth in the eastern part of the county," Smith said. "We feel confident a second school is necessary."
The site, which the county purchased last March for about $3.4 million, houses East Brainerd Elementary's fourth and fifth grades. Most of the site's buildings are less than 10 years old, and some commissioners think there are more pressing county needs than replacing relatively new buildings.
Commissioner Joe Graham, one of four who opposed selecting an architect, asked if there are any vacant classrooms in the David Brainerd School.
Though Waters couldn't say yes, he said he thinks only 15 of 17 were filled at the beginning of the year.
"I can't personally support hiring an architect for a problem I don't think we have right now," Graham said.
Along with Graham, Commissioners Fred Skillern, Warren Mackey and Mitch McClure said they oppose moving ahead on the David Brainerd site.
Skillern questioned why they couldn't build more classroom pods, adding onto the current buildings.
Boyd said he's visited the site and that the current building, though up to code, is not of the quality necessary to last the 50 years the county expects from its buildings.