East Brainerd school project moves forward

East Brainerd school project moves forward

May 3rd, 2012 by Ansley Haman in News

Former David Brainerd School building

Former David Brainerd School building

Hamilton County officials and schools representatives can now choose an architect to design a new East Brainerd Elementary School.

Hamilton County Commissioners voted 7-2 on Wednesday to begin the first step toward constructing the school, which could open as early as fall of 2014 on the site of the former David Brainerd School.

The estimated cost of the new school, which will hold a projected 1,100 students, is $22 million.

The first architectural phase will conduct a feasibility study of the current buildings on the site to determine which, if any, should be saved. In the next phase, officials then will review the recommendations and make the final decision.

A review committee comprised of schools and county officials will select a single architect or firm to conduct both of the design phases.

"I was very pleased, appreciative of the way the vote came down," school board Chairman Mike Evatt said after Wednesday's meeting. "I'm anxious to get started on the architect selection. It normally takes close to a year to design and bid and another year for construction."

Commissioners Fred Skillern and Joe Graham opposed moving forward with architect selection.

Skillern said he wanted the money spent at schools in which 115 portable classrooms are currently being used rather than tearing down a school less than 10 years old to build a new one.

"I just think the money could be better spent, serve more students and be a greater savings," Skillern said after the meeting.

An agreement between commissioners and school board members governs how architects are selected. A committee is formed with Public Works Administrator Dan Wade, County Engineer Todd Leamon, Assistant School Superintendent Gary Waters, a community representative appointed by the school board chairman and both the school board member and commissioner from the district.

Evatt said he will quickly determine who will represent the community and get the name to Wade, who will sent out the request for qualifications for architects.

"Hopefully we'll have this thing wrapped up in the next three to four weeks," Evatt said.

The committee hears architect presentations and narrows a list to three recommendations. From that list, Superintendent Rick Smith and County Mayor Jim Coppinger will select one to recommend to commissioners for approval.

The David Brainerd site poses a unique situation for the architect selection agreement. The county recently redrew political districts based on the 2010 census. Though both East Brainerd Elementary and the David Brainerd site were previously in District 7, the site is now in District 8.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry and school board Member Linda Mosley represent District 7 while Commissioner Tim Boyd and school board member David Testerman represent District 8.

"Ninety-nine percent of the students there are probably going to be out of District 7," Evatt said. "In this scenario - and this would be totally up to them - but I think it would be a good gesture to include Commissioner Henry and Linda Mosley."

County commissioners voted last fall to free up $50 million for capital projects in the school system, and the school board voted to apply the money toward the first phase of its facilities plan on projects such as new elementary schools in East Brainerd and Ooltewah.

Other projects in the phase include additions to Snow Hill and Wolftever Creek elementaries and work at Sale Creek Middle School.