Architects May Be In Place By December For Major New County School Building Program; County To Front $10 Million To Schools To Help Cover Costs

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Architects may be in place by December for a long-delayed major county school building plan, Supt. Bryan Johnson said Wednesday. It takes about a year for the plans to be ready to go out to bid.

Officials said the total cost of all the projects, including some athletic improvements, is estimated at $125 million. The County Commission supplied $100 million by approving a tax increase, and the county schools is dipping into $15 million of fund balance over a two-year period.

Albert Kiser, county finance director, said the county has agreed to supply the other $10 million, but he said the county schools will repay the county from its property tax revenues.

Officials said it will not be necessary to buy any property for construction of a new Harrison Elementary and a new East Hamilton Middle School.

The $29 million Harrison Elementary will go to the rear of Brown Middle School off Highway 58. Justin Witt, who oversees county school building and maintenance, said there is already a pad there for part of the new school, and there is room for later expansion from the initial capacity of 750 students. It is expected to be ready by August of 2021.

Dr. Johnson said Lakeside Elementary and Hillcrest Elementary will be closed along with the current out-moded Harrison Elementary. He said a portion of Hillcrest students will go to the new school, while others will be zoned for Hardy Elementary.

The new East Hamilton Middle School, designed for 1,200 students, will be behind Apison Elementary School. East Hamilton Middle is now in with East Hamilton High on Ooltewah-Ringgold Road.

Dr. Johnson said work will not start on renovating Tyner Middle School for use by Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts until after Tyner Middle students have moved across the street at Tyner High. There will be an addition and a new gym for Tyner Middle, plus renovations to the section that will serve the high school.

CSLA, which now has 450 students, will become K-12 when it moves into the Tyner Middle site in August of 2021.

Howard Middle School will have a $3 million renovation that should be ready by August 2019. An addition at Snow Hill Elementary should be ready at the same time.

The list includes a $4 million replacement of the HVAC system at Center for the Creative Arts as well as an elevator at Normal Park School.

Lookout Valley Elementary will get a new multi-purpose room.

Commissioner Greg Martin asked the value of school sites that will be vacated, including the current CSLA, Hillside, Harrison and Lakeside. Dr. Johnson said the school system may hold onto those sites for use for schools in the future.

Dr. Johnson said the schools will move forward with a plan to deal with a stockpile of deferred maintenance.

He said with the new projects there will be 25 fewer portable buildings at schools.

The superintendent said Spring Creek Elementary in East Ridge and Calvin Donaldson Elementary in Alton Park are "bursting at the seams" and those needs will have to be addressed.

He said school officials will look into some rezoning of students, but plan no changes at this time.

County Commission members praised new Supt. Johnson and County Mayor Jim Coppinger for moving forward with the projects.

Commissioner Chester Bankston said, "Something needed to happen a long time ago. Now it's finally happening."



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