New schools slated for Harrison, East Hamilton

A new Harrison Elementary School could be one of the Hamilton County Board of Education's priorities with new revenue.

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While the only two new schools in the plan are Harrison Elementary and East Hamilton Middle, there are a number of other improvements.» Tyner Middle School will merge with Tyner Academy to form Tyner Middle-High.» Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts will move into a renovated Tyner Middle School —a building that is 58 years old. The current 68-year-old CSLA building has a number of structural issues, with water damage, decay, mold and mice, parents have said.» Howard Middle — now closed — would be renovated and reopened as a magnet school. It would take students from Clifton Hill and East Lake elementary schools, which are overcrowded.» An addition will be built onto Snow Hill Elementary.» A multipurpose room will be built for Lookout Valley Elementary.» A new HVAC system will be installed at the Center for Creative Arts.» An elevator will be installed at Normal Park.» A not-yet-determined school will either get a renovated athletic facility or a new one will be built.To read about parents’ concerns with the voting process, visit

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To read the full list of improvements, including other measures that will directly affect students at East Hamilton-area schools, visit

The Hamilton County Board of Education last week voted to approve a $125 million facilities plan that will fund the construction of new buildings for Harrison Elementary School and East Hamilton Middle School, the only schools in the district for which brand-new facilities will be built.

The news comes as a relief for Harrison Elementary parents, like Alicia Miller, who have long voiced concerns about their children's safety.

At 78 years old, the aging building is plagued with a myriad of issues, such as mold beneath the tiles and a carbon monoxide leak in the kitchen, which Miller said has caused her third-grade daughter and other students at the school to head home with stomach aches and severe headaches.

"It's really frustrating because it's almost like there's not even a whole lot we can do," said Miller, who has reached out to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about her concerns. "It's scary. I hate it. But I have to hide my feelings for my daughter. I don't want her to be scared to go."

The need for repairs has also been a source of distraction in the classroom, parents say. When it rains, children in classrooms with leaking ceilings have to use class time to migrate to another room with more students, Miller said, and the school's heating and cooling system only works on one side of the building at a time.

"You can't learn properly if you're hot or you're cold," said Jennifer Burks, who has three children currently enrolled at Harrison. "They may do the best that they can [to make repairs], but it is a distraction. I've been there while they were actually working on the roof and pieces of the ceiling [were] falling down inside the rooms."

Construction of the new school will cost $35 million and allow the school to finally have a gymnasium, reliable electricity and heat, and an adequate number of classrooms. Principal Wendy Jung said teachers have had to hold classes in portable structures.

The school currently has 410 students enrolled, but the new, larger building will be able to hold 750 students, enabling it to absorb students from Lakeside Academy and Hillcrest Elementary School, which are both nearby.

"It's not just about Harrison," said Burks.

The new facility will be built on county-owned property behind Central High School, said Lee McDade, assistant superintendent of administrative services for the district. The school board will decide what happens to the existing building.

"I'm just really happy that we are getting a new school," said Burks. "I love Harrison, I love the staff, I love the teachers [and] the principal."

Though not as worn-down as Harrison, East Hamilton Middle/High School suffers from severe overcrowding.

According to data compiled by the Hamilton County Department of Education, the school currently enrolls 1,766 students despite being built to fit 1,650, and the problem is only expected to worsen as more and more families flock to the area, which is slated to accrue a sizable portion of the county's growth over the next 10 years.

"One of the things we don't want to do with our decisions is make decisions based on emotion. We want to make decisions based on data. And the data shows us that we've got problems in Districts 7 and 9," Superintendent Bryan Johnson told area officials during recent meetings, referencing the capacity issues at both Harrison Elementary and East Hamilton School. "If we don't do something about it, we're going to have a problem."

The new facility will allow EHMHS to separate its middle and high school students. The middle schoolers will move to the new building, which will be located behind Apison Elementary School, while the high school will expand into the emptied space at the existing facility

The new school, titled simply East Hamilton Middle School, will be built to hold 1,200 students, preparing for the growth to come, McDade said.

Construction of both East Hamilton Middle School and Harrison Elementary is expected to begin this December, with a target completion date of August 2020.