published Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Saving school?

Bradley County's Blue Springs Elementary School was hard hit by the April 27 tornadoes.
Bradley County's Blue Springs Elementary School was hard hit by the April 27 tornadoes.
Photo by Randall Higgins.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Blue Springs residents are trying to keep their elementary school from becoming a tornado casualty.

Parents and others met Friday at Freedom Fellowship Church, not far from the school building heavily damaged by the April 27 tornadoes.

Expressing fear the school might be closed, community residents explored options with Bradley County school board member Christy Critchfield.

“What I want for your community is a new school,” Critchfield told the audience.

The community might find churches willing to house the kindergarten through fifth-grade students of Blue Springs for the next school year beginning in August, Critchfield said.

Churches have been used for short times, Critchfield said, just as First Baptist housed Michigan Avenue Elementary students in its 30 classrooms to finish the school year.

“The church thing is not off the table,” Critchfield said. But preparing a church to meet “a lot of regulations for that” needs to begin soon, she said.

“It would just tickle me to death if we could get a new school in the Blue Springs valley,” said County Commissioner Robert Rominger. He and Commissioners Jeff Moreland and Jeff Yarber attended the meeting to listen.

He and Critchfield told the audience that nothing has been settled yet. How and where a new school would be built remains unknown.

Audience members questioned why the county school board’s insurance provider is taking so long to reach a settlement amount.

“We need to keep the school in our community,” Christy Hughes, an organizer of the community rally, said prior to the meeting. “It is the heart of this community.”

Residents are worried because the small school was targeted for closing about a decade ago.

Critchfield said a new elementary school south of Cleveland is on the school board’s needs list but until now was not at the top of that list.

The board meets Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at the central office on South Lee Highway, Critchfield said, to consider rezoning so Blue Springs children can go to other schools. Blue Springs parents said they do not want children in other communities to be moved from their schools either.

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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