There's a gem going up in Red Bank. You just might not be able to see it.
Tucked behind Red Bank High School, the new Red Bank Middle School project is taking shape, with walls, windows and roofing well under way.
The $30 million school is on budget and on schedule to open by July, project managers say.
Gary Waters, Hamilton County Schools assistant superintendent, said the building's windows and roofing should be wrapped up in about six weeks, which will get crews indoors before the cold winter months.
"We're really in good shape here," he said.
The new school is sandwiched among the high school, an adjacent neighborhood and current and new athletic fields. While it's similar to the recently built Hixson Middle School, the challenging site required some tweaks in the footprint.
Some existing athletic fields had to go, but crews will build two new football practice fields, a band practice field and a soccer and softball field.
"It was a challenge fitting everything in. We couldn't diminish the current [athletic] program of the high school," Waters said. "And I think we actually have enhanced the program."
To fit the school onto the tight site, planners first considered the traffic pattern, said architect Wayne Williams, with TWH Architects.
While car and bus traffic for the high school enters from a drive off Morrison Springs Road, the middle school will have its own route entering the school from Tom Weathers Drive.
"That's something we saw right up front," Williams said.
TWH is also the firm to design a new East Brainerd Elementary School, though that project is currently being held up by the Hamilton County Commission.
With an extensive geothermal heating and cooling system, Waters and Williams said they expect the 160,000-square foot building to be the most efficient of Hamilton County's schools.
Water will travel in and out of the building through about 22 miles of plastic piping that loops through 200 underground wells. That means the school's utility costs should be about 60 percent of the typical school's costs, Waters said.
That's just one of the ever-increasing complexities of constructing such a massive school project.
"There are just so many details. Schools are being built so complex," Waters said. "The days of the rectangular box have passed. It's not an easy project."
The school is planned to hold about 750 students and ring in at $29,608,000. If work stays on track, a July or earlier completion date would give teachers and staff plenty of time to move in before school starts next fall.
Though the school's frontage is hard to spot, planners said the building will be an enhancement to the community.
"We're really proud of this one," Williams said. "But I think the town of Red Bank will also be proud of this."
Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...