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Superintendent Rick Smith listens during the meeting.

When the 1,100-student East Brainerd Elementary School opens in August, it will already be bursting at the seams.

"It will open approaching capacity," Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith said Wednesday during a "State of the Schools" speech to about 80 people at the Hamilton County Council of PTAs general meeting.

So, Smith said, eastern Hamilton County will likely need another elementary school and a middle school - especially after Volkswagen hires 2,000 additional workers to build a new sport-utility vehicle at its Chattanooga assembly plant.

"We're going to be talking about additional schools in that part of the county," Smith said.

Common Core standards, statewide testing and the school district's success with its STEM School and Collegiate High, two high schools on the campus of Chattanooga State Community College, were some of the topics that Smith touched upon during a wide-ranging speech at school district headquarters.

"You've got a real issue across the state of Tennessee," Smith said.

The state has adopted the Common Core academic standards in the classroom, but will test students on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) - which doesn't align with Common Core.

When it convenes in January, the Tennessee General Assembly will reconsider Common Core and will decide what type of test to adopt, since this is the last year TCAP will be used.

"It will be interesting to see what legislators do," Smith said.

Smith posed a question to the audience toward the end of his talk.

"What would it take for Hamilton County to be the best public school system in the South?"

Scottie Summerlin, of the Chattanooga's Public Education Foundation, responded, "I would do whatever it takes to make sure our schools are fully funded."

That inspired Smith to talk about things that could be available to kids here, such as art instruction in every elementary school, with adequate funding.

"I've got to the point where it's time to quit talking about it, and it's time to take action," he said, drawing applause from the audience.

Smith also said the district needs to build a new Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts (CSLA) on the 40 acres it owns on East Brainerd Road to replace the current aging facility.

The magnet school should be expanded in size to serve prekindergarten through 12th grade, he said. The Hamilton County Commission, which controls which new schools on the school board's wish list get funded, this spring turned down the school board's request for a new CSLA building.

"CSLA needs to happen," Smith said. "Our board supports that. I support that."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/tim.omarzu or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.

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