published Thursday, September 20th, 2012

East Brainerd Elementary School project moves forward

East Brainerd Elementary School
East Brainerd Elementary School
Margaret Fenton

Design work will start immediately on a new East Brainerd Elementary School.

Hamilton County commissioners voted Wednesday to move ahead with the project, ending a monthlong standoff between the commission and the county school board.

Gary Waters, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, said he'll meet with architects today to get work under way on the $22 million school, which is projected to hold as many as 1,100 students.

The commission vote alleviated concerns that the delay would mean the school wouldn't be ready by its planned opening date of August 2014. But Waters said it still will be a stretch to get the school completed in 22 months when the design and construction process usually lasts about 26 months.

"It's really pushing it. It just is," Waters said.

The school will be built on the Igou Gap Road site of the private David Brainerd School, which closed in 2009 and later was purchased by the county for the school system. Architects haven't decided if the new building will incorporate any of the current structure, which is being used to ease overcrowding.

Once the new building opens, the school system plans to sell the current East Brainerd Elementary on East Brainerd Road.

Wednesday's vote came after commissioners and school board members struck an agreement that lets commissioners control how funds from school property sales are used.

Under the agreement, new buildings will be titled jointly between the school system and county government. Revenue from future property sales will be placed in a special account to be spent on school capital improvements with the commission's approval.

But even that wasn't enough for Commissioner Joe Graham, who moved to change the agreement, placing the money in the county's budget instead of the schools'.

Several commissioners questioned whether the formality, which could stymie the whole process for several more weeks, was really necessary.

"If we still control [the fund], what's the difference?" Commissioner Greg Beck said.

Graham's amendment was not seconded, and he ended up voting for the original agreement.

After the vote, Graham asked how soon he could put the funds from the special account toward repairs for the football stadium of his alma mater, Lookout Valley High School.

"I'm not joking," Graham said. "How do I go about being the first in line to try and receive some of this revenue for repairs?"

about Kevin Hardy...

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 ...

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