Large Crowd Turns Out For Brainerd High Building Reveal

Sunday, August 4, 2019 - by John Shearer

A building remodeling that also turned into a restoration of the spirit of the Brainerd High School community was celebrated in a major way Sunday afternoon.


Dozens of people packed the refurbished library for an hour-long rededication program, and a number of others examined the halls and rooms during an open house dubbed the Brainerd Together Building Reveal.


“To see this space now and to see this transformation is wonderful,” Crystal Sorrells, the East Ridge High principal and 1994 Miss Brainerd High, told the gathering as a representative of the alumni.

“Thank you so much for bringing the life back into my alma mater.”


The restoration plan was initiated several months ago through now-second-year executive principal Christopher James and supported by the Hamilton County Schools and Greater Hamilton County Communities. A number of businesses and others volunteered to do the work or help fund some of it, and Mr. James said in an interview before the program that the project really took off.


“It started out to be only a week project, and it stretched out over two months with many companies and partners coming in,” he said, adding that they also hope to do some additional work like window replacement next summer.


“It’s been very refreshing the response we’ve gotten from the Hamilton County public.”


While Brainerd High has represented a mostly minority and lower-income school community in recent years battling issues like low test scores, a cross section of the entire city – including several work volunteers – showed up Sunday as support. And that had been the case all summer.


“I’m so proud of Chattanooga for coming together from all parts of the city,” said Mayor Andy Berke, one of the speakers.


The school building, which was designed by Selmon T. Franklin and is still considered a nice example of mid-century school architecture to students of architecture, has had little updating work since it opened in 1960. As a result, its wear and tear were showing.


Highlights of the work this summer included an updated locker room and weight room, a soon-to-be-refinished basketball court floor, a mock court room done with the help of the Chattanooga Bar Association and Lynda Hood, an aviation room with flying simulators done with the support of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority, and the already-mentioned redone library.


The library and some of the classrooms received new flooring to replace the 1960s-era linoleum.


Some fresh paint was also applied in a number of places, and that has apparently made the faces of some of the students shine brighter, too. Among them was senior Ice-L’end Bradley, who also spoke at the program.


“You all have helped make this a better place,” Ms. Bradley said with appreciation. “Not only do we have a new and improved school, we will have a new and improved attitude.”


Among the other speakers were secondary schools director Dr. Zac Brown, 1967 alumnus and former Chattanooga Times Free Press editor Tom Griscom, project co-coordinator and civic volunteer Alison Lebovitz, Wendy Gibson from Unum, Michael Mathis of Regions Bank and Mr. James.


Dr. Brown expressed pleasure over how the project was embraced, saying, “Words cannot express what happened this summer.”


Mr. Griscom related a little about what some of the school rooms were once used for, and added that time had not been good to the physical building, although he thought it still had good bones.


Ms. Lebovitz said that when she first toured some people through the building several years ago, it looked to be in not good physical shape. But she said that people touring Sunday now see hope.


Mr. Mathis, the grandson of George Mathis, who was Brainerd principal from 1960-68, said he has also been amazed at the transformation, and knows his late grandfather would approve.


“From the very beginning, this project has reflected the best of Chattanooga,” he said. “I know my grandfather would have been terribly proud.”


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Among the community partners who helped with the renovation work were: Unum, Regions Bank, South East Total Service, New Blue Construction, Waldrep Construction, Economy Honda, Chattanooga Bar Association and Foundation, The Feed Table Co. & Tavern, CBL Properties, Interior Alchemy, East Chattanooga Lumber & Supply Co., Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, Tom Bible Law, T.U. Parks Construction Co., Elemi Architects, Chattanooga Fire Department, Ward’s Construction, Chattanooga Area Chamber: Midtown, ACE Hardware, Mount Canaan Baptist Church, Lansing Building Products, Relevant Church, Sherwin Williams, Key Bonding Company, Newk’s Eatery, Parker’s Direct Flooring, Food City, Huddle House, Silverdale Baptist Church, BBQ Rowe and Catering, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Education and Learning Resources.

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