Schools Need More Than $210-Million For News Buildings, Repairs and Sports Facilities

Chattanooga, Tenn. (WDEF) — Hamilton county commissioners Wednesday got a look at the estimated capital expenses for the department of education.

Interim superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly and his staff estimate it would take up to $240 million to do repairs and begin construction of new schools.

That brought plenty of questions from commissioners.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly said, “This is the most recent information that we have pertaining to the schools. It was voted and prioritized by the school board at the last school board meeting.”

The report addressed four areas, including new buildings, additions, heating and air and athletic facilities.

Justin Witt is Director of Operations for Hamilton County Schools. He said, “The first in priority was the replacement of Harrison elementary. This was in discussions with the facility committee and the school board would look at combining Harrison and Hillcrest and possibly a portion of Lakeside. The second on the list was the replacement of CSLA. This was looking at a possible K-12 program, 1600 capacity.”

The list deals with issues ranging from proposed new schools to badly needed repairs and obsolete athletic facilities.

But commissioners wanted to explore other ways of solving some of the problems especially overcrowding.

District 4 Commissioner Warren Mackey said, “You identified the ones that are full, but I think you also suggest there are many classrooms that are empty. Let the school board do their job and put the students where the empty classrooms are.”

Dr. Kelly responded, “There are not enough empty classrooms to accommodate what we need in these additions.”

District 6 Commissioner Joe Graham said, “I would like to see us, somewhere in the very near future, talk about these emergency needs with the rainy day fund that, that is built up in our school system. If its not going to be put into a classroom, its not doing our students any good in the bank.”

The school board has about $60 million in the rainy day fund.

Dr. Kelly pointed to packed schools, even some of the newest ones that are in developing areas like Ooltewah.

The department of education gets its funding from the county.

Commissioner Sabrina Smedley said she has scheduled a joint work session with the school board to deal with some of the issues raised. It’ll be on Tuesday, March 14th at the department of education.

Categories: Education, Hamilton County, Local News

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