Staff photo by Monique Brand / The Hamilton County Schools board meets Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020.

The Hamilton County school board on Thursday night approved funding totaling $1.1 million for a partnership that will focus on closing the digital gaps among students.

HCS EdConnect, an initiative in partnership with EPB, will provide students in need with free internet. The school district introduced the Chattanooga area to its plans last month.

The board approved under the consent agenda two funding appropriations to pay for HCS EdConnect-related items: $1 million for its share of a multi-source funding commitment and $170,000 for hot spots for 450 disadvantaged students who live outside of EPB's service area.

The district said the funding partners for HCS EdConnect include Hamilton County, the city of Chattanooga, the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation and the Smart City Venture Fund, which includes the Benwood Foundation, Community Foundation, Footprint Foundation and Robert L. And Katherina Maclellan Foundation. Hamilton County and the city of Chattanooga each committed to contribute $1.5 million.

There was no additional discussion before the unanimous vote.

In other matters, Thursday was board member Kathy Lennon's last meeting. The District 2 representative had qualified to run for re-election but pulled her name off the ballot in April citing health issues. She assumed office in 2016. Her current term ends on Sept. 1.

Chairman Joe Wingate thanked Lennon for her time on the school board and said she will be dearly missed before handing her a plaque commemorating her four years of service.

Several board members and system Superintendent Bryan Johnson also thanked Lennon and called her "humble," "a great peacemaker" and a "wonderful friend."

Lennon said she has "grown so much from all of my experiences" and wants to come back in a few months in "some capacity."

"It has been an honor to serve this community," she said.

Newcomer Marco Perez won Lennon's seat in the Aug. 6 election over Tom Decosimo, with 5,272 votes to 3,850. Incumbent board members Rhonda Thurman and Wingate kept their seats.


CSLA's new home

Also up for discussion was the new home for Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts.

The board has discussed finding a new location for the school since 1999, and at one point the plan called for rebuilding the school on its current site on East Brainerd Road.

Earlier this year, there was talk of relocating the school to the old Sears inside Northgate Mall.

But after heated debate Thursday evening, the board voted 6-3 to move forward with locating the magnet school on the grounds of the Lakeside Academy near the Washington Alternative School building.

According to Justin Witt, director of facilities, the expected completion date is August 2022.

Contact Monique Brand at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @MoBrandNews.