County mayor reaffirms German school support

County mayor reaffirms German school support

April 24th, 2010 by Kelli Gauthier in Volkswagen

Chattanooga will come through on its promise to expand a German school for children of Volkswagen employees, Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said Friday -- he's just not sure where the money will come from.

"I expect the commitment to be kept," he said in a news conference Friday. "Where the funds come from is really immaterial."

During a budget work session Thursday night, Hamilton County Schools officials said that educating the German students has helped put the system in a budget crunch.

"This is one reason why we're in a deficit," said Danielle Clark, spokeswoman for the school system.

But Mr. Ramsey said Friday that the school system is one beneficiary of VW-related growth, so it should be able to pay for the German program.

"I'm saying there's going to be money available one way or another," he said.

If the school system cannot find the funds to pay for the program in its final budget, Mr. Ramsey said he would supplement the German school plan with county funds.

So far, Hamilton County Schools has spent about $525,000 educating German students at Normal Park Museum Magnet and Brown Academy. Administrators estimate that, when they expand the program to Signal Mountain Middle-High School and three campuses in the eastern end of the county next year, they will pay another $1 million.

The program, which includes teachers, technology and textbooks for nearly 100 German students, is meant to keep them on-grade level when they return to Germany after their parents are finished working for Volkswagen.

Officials expect between seven and 20 new German students next year, Ms. Clark said.

Preparing for the number of German students is a moving target, officials said, because it's usually not clear whether incoming employees have children or what grades they are in.

Hamilton County Board of Education member Rhonda Thurman said she expected Ooltewah Middle, Ooltewah High and possibly Snow Hill Elementary to be the three campuses to get new German programs next year.

Ms. Thurman said she would like to see, in writing, exactly what the school system is responsible for.

"I think at the very least, the county should have consulted with us and showed us what the plans were," she said. "It would have been a courtesy."

Follow Kelli Gauthier on Twitter at twitter.com/gauthierkelli.

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