published Friday, July 29th, 2011

Bradley County schools present priorities list

Koty Perry and Kris Poe clear trees and debris from the Blue Springs Elementary School grounds.
Koty Perry and Kris Poe clear trees and debris from the Blue Springs Elementary School grounds.
Photo by Randall Higgins.
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• Land for third middle school: $400,000

• New building, improvements at Lake Forest Middle: $12.16 million

• Walker Valley High addition: $2 million

• South Bradley elementary school: $12 million

Source: Bradley County Schools

CLEVELAND, Tenn.—Bradley County Schools officials brought an updated list of priority needs to the County Commission's Education Committee on Thursday.

The top four projects -- land for a third county middle school, a new building and improvements at Lake Forest Middle School, an eight-classroom addition at Walker Valley High School and an elementary school in the southern part of the county -- total $26.5 million.

The committee agreed that the full commission be asked Monday to allow the Finance and Education committees to work with the county school board on a five-year plan for the priorities. The plan would include funding ideas and a timeline, Commissioner J. Adam Lowe said.

Committee members said they want to know more about funding, either with county debt, a property tax increase or a wheel tax on cars registered in the county.

"I just want to know all the options," Lowe said, "and I want to vote them up or down."

Commissioner Jeff Morelock suggested community meetings to discuss school needs. He also wants to hear if there's a commitment from the County Commission.

"I can't see how we can do this without taxes," Morelock said. He opposes more borrowing unless there's a repayment plan to consider, too.

"I'd like to hear everybody's views," Morelock said.

Commissioner Cliff Eason said he has heard members of the public ask the same questions as Morelock. Why does the county need another elementary school when it was able to absorb the Blue Springs Elementary students displaced by the tornadoes? Would Walker Valley High be crowded if only students zoned for the school were there?

County schools Director Johnny McDaniel, who presented the priority list, said there is space elsewhere for the Blue Springs children because the county opened Park View Elementary last year.

Commissioner Jeff Yarber, chairman of the Education Committee, clarified that agreeing Monday to put the two committees to work doesn't mean approving funding for the list.

Yarber said that the last time the Finance Committee considered a school-needs proposal, it went nowhere.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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