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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts is seen on Tuesday, Sept. 26, in Chattanooga, Tenn. CSLA will add its first class of ninth grade students in the 2021-22 school year.

This story was updated on Thursday, March 11, 2021, at 3:21 p.m. with additional information.

Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts will grow its student body next year. The K-8 school will add a ninth grade class of 50 students, made up of current eighth grade students at CSLA along with students who will be selected from a lottery later this month.

Some of CSLA's current eighth grade class of 49 students will continue there for ninth grade, while others will move on to different schools, Principal Krystal Scarbrough said. For the open seats, families can apply for students to be entered into a lottery.

For the 2021-22 school year, the ninth graders and 99 magnet students from Lakeside Academy will attend school at CSLA's current campus. Meanwhile, renovation and construction will take place at Lakeside Academy's current campus before CSLA moves there the following school year.

The new CSLA campus, opening in August 2022, will consist of Lakeside Academy's building and a new building located nearby. Some magnet students at Lakeside will start at CSLA next year, while zoned students living near Lakeside will start at the newly opened Harrison Elementary School.

For the upcoming school year, the school is repurposing portable units for the added students and putting them on the tennis court, Scarbrough said. The portable units come from East Hamilton High School and were previously used for students of East Hamilton Middle School before they moved into their new building.

"They are going to remodel the current building, they're going to remove their portable units and build a cafeteria and gymnasium back there where those portables were, and the middle and high school will be a brand-new construction on the other side enclosed kind of like a courtyard," Scarbrough said.

The road to a new campus dates back several years. CSLA's current campus was built in 1949 and experiences water leaks and a shifting foundation, leading to a 1999 facilities report recommending its closure. More recently, the school board debated moving the school to the old Sears location at Northgate Mall in Hixson last spring before deciding on this location.

"The current campus is in really bad condition, physical condition, but also they wanted to add a high school. But by renovating a larger campus and building onto a larger campus, we're able to add more students at every grade level, and so that has really helped," said Jill Levine, chief of innovation and school choice at Hamilton County Schools. "A lot of those students in this first year will be magnet students that came from Lakeside, but as the school expands, there will be additional seats at some different grade levels, which just allows us to have more interested families attend CSLA."

The first class of ninth graders will be CSLA's first graduating class, Scarbrough said. The school will add a new grade level each year for CSLA to become a K-12 school.

The deadline to apply for the lottery is March 15. The district will run the lottery March 19, and families will be notified by March 26.

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

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