published Friday, October 18th, 2013

Cleveland City Schools Board of Education sets priorities

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Cleveland City Schools Board of Education has placed facility safety, roofing overhauls and transportation at the top of its list of maintenance priorities.

On Thursday, the board discussed capital needs with school administrators in an attempt to narrow what should be accomplished with the estimated $386,000 capital outlay fund available to the schools. That fund is replenished each year through a half-cent city tax increase passed in 2009.

The school system needs to add another bus for special-needs students and another two regular buses for activities, said Hal Taylor, director of maintenance and transportation.

A special-needs bus which was purchased as a spare last year no longer is a spare, according to Paul Ramsey, energy education specialist.

"It's a constant battle -- every day is tight," Taylor said. "[The extra buses] would give us a little more breathing room."

Now, any athletic or other extracurricular bus trips must wait until the student bus routes are completed at 4:30 p.m. or a lease must be contracted with a county bus operator, Taylor said. Two activity buses would alleviate that problem and also provide short-term backup for a student bus route if needed, he said.

Taylor estimated the school system could purchase three used buses for about $100,000.

Stuart Elementary School's gymnasium and auditorium also need reroofing, he said.

Officials discussed the possibility of delaying the auditorium roof by a year, but all expressed a willingness to move quickly on the gymnasium.

Repairs have been made to the gymnasium roof, but it continues to leak, Taylor said.

"It's going to take a lot more damage the longer it goes and will be more expensive to fix," he said.

The feasibility of implementing a number of safety and security measures will be addressed in future meetings, including expanding the number of schools that use keyless entry systems and improving radio communications at Cleveland Middle School and Cleveland High School.

Cleveland Middle School has to rely primarily on cellphones and the intercom system because handheld radios have no reception, Principal Mike Collier said.

At Cleveland High School it can be difficult to communicate between its east and west wings with handheld radios, said Autumn O'Bryan, the school's principal.

Transmission problems can be traced to communication tower positioning on a ridge overlooking Georgetown Road, Taylor said. A solution may require the purchase of a radio repeater tower that retransmits signals for better coverage, he said.

About $250,000 of the budget is expected to be allocated to priority requests.

Officials agreed with a recommendation by Brenda Carson, the business manager for the school system, to hold back about $100,000 for emergencies.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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