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Staff File Photo By C.B. Schmelter / Queita Davis, left, the mother of a child in district schools, speaks to Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson during a community meeting at Lookout Valley Middle/High School last month.

In the space of the next two months, the near term future of Hamilton County Schools will be determined. Every resident of the county should be interested.

During that time, though dates for completion processes could change slightly, an updated 10-year facilities master plan will be presented, community meetings on that plan will be held, community meetings on the school's proposed 2021-2023 strategic financial plan will be offered, zoning meetings involving a dozen or so schools will be scheduled, and a presentation on the final recommendations of a facilities master plan by MGT Consulting Group will be made.

A video by the school district that articulates what the focus of the school system is as it relates to the 10-year facilities masters plan and other priorities — called "Blueprint 2030" — will be released later this week. It should be must-see viewing by every taxpayer or at least everyone who believes Hamilton County Schools should be the best they can be.

In this century, the priorities of a merged school district in the late 1990s were small schools and small classrooms, which are admirable in many ways.

But those priorities have left the district with a cost of what is expected to be $1.36 billion over 10 years to operate the current schools and repair their many maintenance problems. The small schools-small classrooms plan also means the district employs 550 more teachers than the state's Basic Education Program funds. In other words, the county has far more teachers than should be expected for a county of our size.

Change is coming. Schools will be merged, closed, moved, repurposed or built.

That may sound harsh, and if it affects the school you attended or the school your child attends it also may sound scary. That's not the intent.

"We're going to be aggressive," Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson told Times Free Press editors and reporters Tuesday. "We can't wait five years."

He was referring to the facilities themselves.

"We're also looking at learning environments," said Dr. Justin Robertson, the district's chief schools officer. "We want all students to achieve at the optimal level."

He was referring to the proper and equitable use of the facilities for each student.

The district, with improved academic achievement, is on the move. To position it for the future, "our job is to be thoughtful disruptors," said Johnson. To do so, he said, the district must be both effective and efficient.

The next two months will offer the public many opportunities to voice their opinions on how the schools will do that. We should all want to take part.

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