Plans for use of old American Uniform building move forward

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Staff Writer
Posted 7/17/17

Bradley County Schools is getting closer to its goal of having a facility where local companies can partner with schools to teach students career skills.

The local school system is in the …

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Plans for use of old American Uniform building move forward

Posted

Bradley County Schools is getting closer to its goal of having a facility where local companies can partner with schools to teach students career skills.

The local school system is in the process of purchasing the former American Uniform building at the corner of Parker and 23rd Street.

Though Bradley County Schools has not officially closed on the building yet, plans for its use are already in the works.

“It’s moving forward,” said Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash. “We’re coming together as a group to see what our community needs.” 

Back in April, the Bradley County Commission voted for the purchase of the building, at the cost of $2.2 million, from owner Larry Armour.

Since then, school system officials have been brainstorming ways to make the most of the facility.

The current plan is to make it a space for science, technology, engineering and math activities, particularly the STEM areas related to high school career and technical education programs. It will also provide a new home for GOAL Academy, Bradley County’s alternative school.

GOAL Academy Principal Kyle Page, who has also been named the new facility’s project manager, said there are “still a lot of moving pieces” on this project, but there are a few things which are for sure.

For one thing, the building now officially has a name. It will be called Partnerships in Education and Industry Innovation Center, or the “PIE Center.” 

“You can think of the name kind of the way you think of the ‘STEM’ acronym,” said Brittany Cannon, work-based learning coordinator for Bradley County Schools. “It is easy to say, yet the concepts behind it mean a lot for our students.”

Another thing which is for sure, Page said, is that school system personnel are on the same page about what the goals of the facility will be.

Students will be able to learn various career and technical education subjects taught by the county school system’s teachers, said Page. Then, some of those students will get to gain real-life career experience, without ever leaving the property.

Bradley County Schools plans to allow companies to lease space in the facility for their daily operations. Companies will be required to rent with the intention of also offering internship or part-time job opportunities to high school students.

While companies would benefit from this partnership, Cannon stressed “students will drive every decision that we make.” 

Page said there are already companies looking at the facility, and some have expressed serious interest. He added Bradley County Schools is also partnering with the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce to promote it.

At the same time, school system officials are also reaching out to area companies to find out which job skills are the most in demand.

“I think it’s important right now to be seeing what will most benefit the community,” Cash said. “That kind of collaboration always changes what we’re doing in terms of career and technical education.” 

Though there is not much that can be done to the building until the purchase is final, school system personnel and student volunteers have already been clearing out parts of the facility.

Earlier this summer, football players from Bradley Central High School and Walker Valley High School volunteered to move furniture and other items. One recent afternoon, school maintenance staff were having a look at some of the HVAC equipment.

Cobwebs are now being brushed away inside the long-vacant building, and school officials have high hopes for its future.

“We are in a place of starting on something that could change the course of things for students in our community,” Page said. “Students will remain our focus in all of this.” 

The exact date the school system will close on the building has not yet been determined. However, Cash said progress is being made on that front.

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christy.armstrong@clevelandbanner.com

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