The construction of a new Cleveland elementary school officially began this fall, and the historic event is tied for No. 9 on the Cleveland Daily Banner’s list of Top 10 Newsmakers for …
The construction of a new Cleveland elementary school officially began this fall, and the historic event is tied for No. 9 on the Cleveland Daily Banner’s list of Top 10 Newsmakers for 2017.
School officials say they are grateful to see workers at the site of the new school, located off Georgetown Road/Highway 60. The school, which has been named Candy’s Creek Cherokee Elementary School, has been a long time coming.
“A lot of work has gone into getting this school where it is today,” said Dr. Russell Dyer, director of Cleveland City Schools.
Dyer noted that this year’s progress was preceded by years of discussion about the need for a new elementary school in the city. As these discussions continued, the student populations at the existing schools continued to grow.
In September of this year, Cleveland City Schools officials announced an “all-time high” for student enrollment. As of the 15th day of the 2017-18 school year, there were 5,626 students in the city schools. Over the past seven years, the school system had grown by nearly 600 students.
With the 2016 completion of the $11 million Raider Arena at Cleveland High School, the Cleveland Board of Education was seriously able to turn its attention to funding the new elementary school.
In June, the board received construction bids for the new school. The board eventually gave the project to J&J Contractors, which had submitted a bid for $14,837,000. It was the only one of the five bidders to submit a bit within the school system’s $15 million budget.
Due to unexpected costs for HVAC equipment, board members also realized in June the project was going to still end up being over budget. The board would later vote to omit certain features from the new building, while still ensuring it would be good for those teaching and learning there.
In July, the Cleveland City Council approved a funding plan for the new school, meaning construction could soon begin. At that point, the estimated cost was $15,691,900, which included $275,000 in contingency funds.
The funding plan, which included $9 million in bond funds in the city’s 2018 budget, was set to cover up to $15,417,000 of the new facility’s total cost. The school system was tasked with picking up the tab for any costs above that amount.
In the coming months, city school board members would continue to discuss ways to keep the project on budget. As the start of construction approached, excitement in the community began to build.
“Building a new school is always a journey that gets the entire community involved,” Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland wrote in an August column in the Cleveland Daily Banner. “It has been a long time in the making, but now the work begins to broaden our horizons and accommodate the growth experienced in this area in recent years.”
The new school will be a single-story building boasts some 95,700 square feet. It will have an initial capacity of 520 students, with room to added on new classrooms to accommodate up to 700 students.
Classrooms will be located in three different wings of the building, separated by grade level — kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade and fourth and fifth grade. The building will also include spaces like a gym/auditorium and a multipurpose room.
On Dec. 11, members of the school board got the chance to tour the construction site, where workers were busy pouring concrete and doing other needed site work. The new building’s first wall — the wall of the gym/auditorium — stood proudly nearby.
Hal Taylor, director of operations for the school system, told the visitors he was happy with how things were going.
“Right now, we’re on schedule,” Taylor said. “The contractors are doing a good job keeping things moving.”
Dec. 13, Cleveland Board of Education’s Site Committee met to discuss the school’s colors, as well as potential school mascots. In January 2018, the committee will present these to the full board for a vote.
It is expected the colors and mascot will hearken back to the Cherokee culture, which inspired the school’s name. The name does not contain a misspelling; the new school is named after the historic Candy’s Creek settlement, rather than the modern-day Candies Creek.
During the December Site Committee meeting, school officials learned about a potential budget issue, namely that having a gas line run to the site would be more expensive than planned. However, school officials were optimistic that other arrangements could be made to help stay on budget.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Dyer said. “Now that the building is taking shape, there are several other things we need to do.”
These things will include finalizing some of the design aspects of the new school building and looking at hiring a principal, teachers and other staff.
There is also the matter of determining from which neighborhoods the school’s students will come. The closest existing schools to the Highway 60 construction site are city schools Yates Primary School and E.L. Ross Elementary and county school Hopewell Elementary.
Construction, which began in August, is expected to be completed in March of 2019. The new city school will open to students at the start of the 2019-20 school year.
“We are very excited to see the progress so far,” Dyer said. “This will help us provide better learning environments for our elementary students.”
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