Which is more important: building new schools in Hamilton county, or repairing older buildings to meet the increased population demands?
According to those who spend their days studying the issues, the answer is---both!
They say it can't be done with the resources available right now.
Guessing where Hamilton county will need schools 5 years from now is like a giant game of Whack-a-Mole.
RICK SMITH, SUPERINTENDENT "For the better part of 15 years we were not growing in Hamilton county. And so what we had is what we had. And we occasionally built a school and went about the business of doing renovation when we could..the new pressure now is growth, we're having to build new schools now."
The school facilities committee got an over-view of the challenges ahead of them from assistant superintendent Gary Waters.
GARY WATERS "Our buildings are wearing out. They are old, they are outdated, we simple haven't had the funds to do what we need to do. We're well aware of the needs..its just the issue of having the dollars to respond to them."
With the average age of local schools being 42-to-45 years, the dollars available are distributed as needed to new construction, or for emergencies. An example of one un-planned event, is replacement of the leaky hail-damaged roof at Central High school. It cost 700-thousand dollars.
RICK SMITH "Those emergency situations are real...and we've got them all over our county."
The facilities committee is focused on how to divide resources.
MIKE EVATT, CHAIRMAN, SCHOOL BOARD "I know there's arguments about 'let's fix our existing schools..instead of building new schools'...well, you know, but where do you put the kids when they come."
Evatt says a new subdivision of 300 to 440 homes would cause an immediate concern for building a new school nearby.
That's happening mainly in the east because of Volkswagen and Amazon-dot-com.
Gary Waters is asking that the school board plan further out for growth and repair.
Superintendent Smith says the district is also studying the creation of a technical high school like the old Kirkman Tech that went away 20 years ago.
He says there is a definite need.