published Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Catoosa schools seeking waiver

by Chris Carroll

RINGGOLD, Ga. — Catoosa County students won’t have to take end-of-year standardized tests or make up a week wiped away by tornadoes, pending state approval of a school board resolution passed Tuesday night.

As crews and insurance adjusters made county schools “look more familiar,” it was imperative to pass the resolution hours before the state Board of Education met today, Catoosa Superintendent Denia Reese said.

All five board members obliged. Several other counties already have had their weather-inspired waivers approved.

Reese and others said Ringgold High School will be repaired by August, but they had less to say about Ringgold Middle School, which sustained damage to athletic facilities and an entire academic wing.

“The question right now is repair or rebuild,” said Marissa Brower, a spokeswoman for the school system.

Officials expect insurance adjusters to know more about the middle school’s structural integrity by the end of this week.

Reese characterized both schools as “uninhabitable” after a tornado blew through Ringgold on April 27, killing eight people and destroying much in its path.

Tuesday marked the second day of coping with reality, as Ringgold Middle School students took classes at Heritage Middle School, and Ringgold High did the same at Heritage High.

Ringgold students and teachers occupied the afternoon part of the schedule, and Heritage students went to class in the morning. About three weeks remain before the term ends.

Catoosa’s resolution knocks out standardized test requirements, gives teachers flexibility in determining final grades and allows students to advance with less-than-minimum instruction time.

Ringgold students haven’t entered the facilities since the storms. Officials plan to return personal possessions from lockers to high school seniors first, followed by other students, according to Damon Raines, director of operations for Catoosa County Schools.

“They obviously won’t want to keep the textbooks,” he joked.

Raines cited “moisture issues” as a reason to expedite the process.

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