Hamilton County Board of Education votes to approve hiring an architect to design new Tyner school

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ Students walk through the halls of Tyner Academy on Dec. 6, 2019.
Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ Students walk through the halls of Tyner Academy on Dec. 6, 2019.

Members of the Hamilton County Board of Education on Thursday praised Tyner Academy seniors who walked out of school Wednesday afternoon, agreeing the county should take steps toward constructing a new building or buildings for the deteriorating school.

The walkout brought attention to the condition of the school and the recent closure of the 400 building, which houses the school's Freshman Academy, because of water leaks.

"None of us would walk in there and go to work in Tyner every single day, yet we have students and teachers that go in every single day while the roof leaks on them, they can't eat lunch because of water on them," board member Tucker McClendon of East Ridge said.

"So yeah, they're fed up, I'm fed up and I commend them and I am proud of them for what they did yesterday because someone's got to listen, someone has to listen to them, and we have to do better."

As he spoke, Tyner Academy senior Kaylea Moore bumped elbows with the person seated next to her, who was wearing a maroon T-shirt. A handful of students and adults in the boardroom also wore maroon and gold, Tyner Academy's colors.

Moore, along with Tyner Academy seniors Jaylan Sims and Timetrius Lansden, addressed the board after the vote as the final public speakers of the meeting, asking the board to fix their school.

"Tyner Academy was first built in the year 1907, and since that time the world changed significantly," Sims told the board. "We split the atom, we put a man on the moon and we created the addiction of social media, but while the world was changing, Tyner stayed the same."

Sims listed accomplishments of Tyner students - such as $5 million in scholarships earned by the class of 2021 and earning internships at Chattanooga companies - despite the quality of their school buildings.

"Since the closing of our freshman building containing nine classrooms, freshman lockers and our library, teachers have to share their classrooms and carry their belongings everywhere, and our freshmen who have little to no knowledge of our building are scattered," Moore said. "This makes our hallways crowded and getting an education more difficult. We shouldn't have to worry if we have a classroom to learn in or if the ceiling's going to fall on us at any moment."

Moore and Tyner Academy senior Cameron Patton told the Times Free Press after the meeting that the walkout was planned during one of their classes.

"We came up with this idea last week when we noticed that the freshman building, it wasn't utilized for our freshmen, and we just decided like that was the last straw, we felt as if we needed to do something," Moore said.

Justin Robertson, chief operations officer for the school system, told the board the 400 building's roof damage was assessed with the estimated repairs costing about $170,000 and that an assessment of the full building was completed this week.

He said Tyner Middle was the lowest-rated building on a recent infrastructure assessment other than the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, which is being addressed.

The 2019 facilities report from MGT Consulting Group rated Tyner High School at 57% for weighted building condition score and 16% for grounds score, while Tyner Middle School earned a 47% weighted building condition score and 39% grounds score.

Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts received a 44% for the weighted building condition score and 49% grounds score on the same report. The school's new campus will be built on the site of Lakeside Academy and will open next August.

Hamilton County Schools has $30 million in the third round of federal coronavirus relief money to use for facility needs or deferred maintenance, with $25 million to be used for a new building or buildings for Tyner Academy, pending approval from the Tennessee Department of Education. Use of the federal funding requires the school be fully constructed and open for students by August 2024.

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at achaturvedi@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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