One in particular is identifying a site for a new school, and then following up with plans for funding it, designing it and building it.
City staff members are planning to put together information concerning the school system’s need for the new elementary school, and tentative locations to build the new facility.
This information, including a footprint for a new school on the Hardwick Field airport property, will be provided at a proposed joint meeting of the Bradley County Commission, Cleveland City Council and the and Cleveland and Bradley County school boards. This meeting has yet to be scheduled.
City school board member Dawn Robinson emphasized Monday that the board really doesn’t need a footprint for a school on the airport property. “We know we could build several schools there,” she said. “What we need is the probable cost of site preparation (removing hangars and concrete).”
The school board approved a motion Monday for maintenance-transportation supervisor Paul Ramsey to be included on the committee with city staff members.
The city school board previously selected a tentative site on North Lee Highway for a new school. The 15-acre tract is part of a planned residential-commercial development for approximately 500 families. The board would like the new school to be a central focus of that development (a community school).
Some Council members continue to lean toward the Hardwick Field property as a potential school site.
Despite the debate on a school location, funding is an even bigger issue for school system needs. Board members emphasize they cannot negotiate for purchase of the Lee Highway property or any other site, since no funding has been committed by the city. This is also true for construction hopes at this time.
The Bradley County Commission is considering a wheel tax proposal, as early as August, with revenue targeted for education (in the city and county). The referendum, and passage, remain questionable although city school board members have pledged their active support.
With enrollment growth in the city school system, especially in elementary grades, the school board is facing a severe challenge in August. Director of Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff emphasizes that city enrollment increased 337 students over the past 18 months, with more than 85 new students at Mayfield Elementary this year.
The city’s newest school had to use one of two computer labs, a drama classroom and a guidance room for “required” classroom space.
Ringstaff said after Monday’s school board meeting there might be some expansion space on Mayfield’s playground, but there doesn’t appear to be additional space to move the playground.
There appears to be little chance of increased (elementary) classroom space for the fall, so any significant growth may force emergency measures. Rezoning could possibly be an option.
Other school board topics:
- Site Committee Chairman Dr. Murl Dirksen expressed his appreciation to the media for keeping Cleveland residents informed of school system challenges. A major issue, he said, is the need for heating and air upgrades for Cleveland High School’s east wing.
The Site Committee received an estimate recently that HVAC upgrades for the east wing will cost approximately $1.3 million. Additional work in the gymnasium and locker rooms would cost another $180,000.
This report was not what the board was hoping for, since funding for the project (like a school site and a new school) is currently unavailable.
- Board members also discussed tentative plans for the Betsy Vines (Little) Theater at the high school.
Brian Templeton of Upland Design Group in Crossville is bringing preliminary plans to the board for consideration.
After some discussion, the board decided to meet with Templeton and discuss the theater project following the next Site Committee meeting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29.
It is hoped theater renovation can be completed for the start of classes in August, after the summer break.
- Ringstaff said he has been meeting with financial officer Brenda Carson and her staff on next year’s budget. “It’s very detailed,” he said in praising their work.
“Our students receive the dividends of all the great people on our staff,” he added.