Last week, Hamilton County Schools broke ground on one of a few capital projects planned for this year — a new track and field at Hixson High School.
The district also is completing work on Soddy-Daisy High School's track and field this summer. Both projects should be finished when school starts, said Justin Witt, director of maintenance and operations for the school district.
At Hixson High, a rubberized, six-lane track will be added around the football field, which will be raised and graded 2 feet to improve drainage. The field, also used by Hixson Middle School students and athletic teams, also will get new goal posts, a new sprinkler system and fencing.
"The new facilities will allow us to host track meets here," Principal Lee Sims said in a statement. "We have not been able to do that for years. The community will benefit from a safer walking area, and the improvements to the football field will add to the aesthetics of an already beautiful Hixson High School campus."
Central and Brainerd high schools' tracks are next on the improvement list, with bids opening in the next few weeks, Witt said. The construction will not interrupt other sports teams, so the tracks will not be completed until later in the fall.
Hixson athletic director and wrestling coach Garrick Hall said the new track illustrates the commitment to schools.
"It shows the community that the school board and the county commissioners are behind the schools," Hall said. "[The stadium] is the first thing you see when you come to school. You see the track and the tennis courts and you see that they are dilapidated. Now parents will see them being taken care of."
This summer, the district also is finishing up eight more Volkswagen eLabs for a fall launch. The new eLabs were announced in January for Brainerd High, Brown Middle, Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts, Hixson High, Hixson Middle, Ooltewah Middle, Orchard Knob Middle and Soddy-Daisy Middle.
Bids for a Snow Hill Elementary addition also will be opened by the end of the month, Witt said.
Of more than $100 million of capital improvements planned for schools, the Snow Hill addition will be the one of the first projects to break ground.
Last October, the Hamilton County school board unanimously approved a $100 million-plus capital project plan set forth by Superintendent Bryan Johnson.
County commissioners voted in November to approve the plan, which will mostly be funded by a property tax hike commissioners approved in September, the first such increase for schools in a decade.
Architects for five projects, including the Snow Hill addition; renovations at Tyner Middle and High; a new Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts; Howard High's future stadium and track and new schools at Harrison Elementary and East Hamilton Middle were chosen in February.
Those projects all remain in the design phase, Witt said, which can last several months. Later this year or in early 2019, construction bids will be released for the next phase of the projects.