CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A shift in school bus routes involving five elementary schools was approved Thursday by the Bradley County school board to make room for students from Blue Springs Elementary.
Blue Springs was damaged by the April 27 tornadoes so badly that the building was deemed unsafe by county building inspectors, said County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel. Warning signs have been posted and the door locks changed.
The board-approved plan moves 89 children from Blue Springs to Black Fox Elementary, and 46 students will be assigned to bus routes going to Prospect Elementary. Another 109 Blue Springs children will shift to Waterville Community Elementary. From Waterville, 39 students will be shifted to Oak Grove Elementary and 30 to Taylor Elementary.
“We would like to do something different, but this is what we have to do,” board Chairman Troy Weathers said.
Board member Vicki Beaty cast the only “no” vote. She explained later she wanted more parent opinion, including from the affected schools other than Blue Springs.
Parents of Blue Springs students being moved around to different schools are still free to apply to out-of-zone schools and be accepted if there is room, board members said. But out-of-zone families must provide their own transportation.
At some point in the storms, a portion of the roof at Blue Springs and its old-fashioned concrete trusses lifted up and cracked, McDaniel said, allowing a wall to move. School board members saw a pine tree, partially inside and partially outside the school cafeteria, during a recent visit.
Weathers told residents attending the board session that places must be found for the children before school begins in August. But the students cannot be kept together in one place and meet numerous state laws regarding school buildings.
“Everything changed for southern Bradley County on April 27,” McDaniel said.
The board also authorized McDaniel to negotiate the possible purchase of 20 acres on Blue Springs Road for a new school.
Weathers said the board will revisit its future building plans now with the County Commission.
Michigan Avenue Elementary also was severely damaged by storms, but it will be ready for students next school year, McDaniel said. The school system’s insurance company, plus Kaatz Binkley Architects and Tri-Con Construction, are working out the details.
Because it is an emergency and the companies will be paid directly by the insurance, competitive bidding was not needed, McDaniel said.
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 ...