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A crowd gathers at Ganns Middle Valley School on Tuesday to begin lobbying their case for a new school. Staff photo by Kevin Hardy


What: Hamilton County Board of Education facilities committee meeting,

When: 4:30 p.m. today

Where: Superintendent's conference room, Hamilton County Department of Education, 3074 Hickory Valley Road.

Hamilton County school board members will start deliberating today which new school construction projects should get done first. And while county funding still hasn't been announced, parents already are lining up to make sure their schools are at the front of the line.

About 150 people met Tuesday evening at Ganns Middle Valley Elementary as parents, teachers and students lobbied for a new school building. The county already has purchased land for a replacement school. But Ganns and several other schools -- including Sale-Creek Middle-High, Nolan Elementary, Wolftever Creek Elementary and Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts -- sit on the current version of the board's facility plan for needed replacement or additions.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said it's still unclear when the county will make the next round of school construction funds available to the school system. But County Commissioner Marty Haynes and school board member Greg Martin, who both represent the Middle Valley area, said they'll be asking their respective boards to put Ganns at the top of the list.

In January, a group of about 100 parents from CSLA, a magnet school in East Brainerd, lobbied the school board to finally replace their building, which has been on school system to-do lists since at least 1999.

But parents on Tuesday said Ganns should get top priority.

The 75-year-old school houses about one-third of students in portable trailers. Ceilings leak and kids and teachers often go home sick because of mold and dust problems, parents said. The school has no gym, and instead uses a basement room for PE classes. A video presentation showed ceiling tiles that were missing or covered with brown and black stains.

One student who spoke compared the building's creaky wooden floors and cracked walls to a Jenga tower that's about to topple.

"It is hard for us to feel proud of our facility at Ganns," said parent Matt Lovitt.

Aside from it's poor condition, the facility is crowded and outdated. It has only 25 toilets for some 600 students.

Nurses and guidance counselors work out of closets because of a lack of space. And safety is threatened as doors remain unlocked to allow kids in portables to access the main building for lunch, PE and restroom breaks.

"We have a building that prohibits us from doing our best work and from feeling well each and every day," said teacher Karen Smith.

Still, parents said none of those physical issues negate the positive qualities of the high-performing school.

"Buildings don't define a school," said Principal Sandra Jerardi, "but they certainly can have a huge impact."

Staff writer Louie Brogdon contributed to this story.