published Friday, January 24th, 2014

Funding sought for Cleveland Schools

  • photo
    Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Cleveland Board of Education has proposed using money it expects to receive from Bradley County to help build a new Georgetown Road elementary school and a new gymnasium for Cleveland High.

On Thursday, the board voted 7-0 in a special meeting to allocate whatever money comes from Bradley County whenever it funds the next county education capital project.

If the next Bradley County Commission follows through with a plan approved by the current commission, the county should issue $12 million in bonds for rebuilding Lake Forest Middle School.

According to a longstanding agreement between Bradley County and Cleveland, the county must raise $1 for the city school system for every $2 it raises for the county school system, based on student enrollment numbers.

That means Cleveland City Schools could see $6 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Regardless of when county funding becomes available, the new elementary school and high school gym cannot wait, Cleveland education officials said.

The cost for the two projects has been estimated at between $25.7 million and $28.9 million. The new elementary is estimated to cost $16.1 million, and the new gymnasium between $9.58 million and $12.77 million.

City Schools Director Dr. Martin Ringstaff has said a new elementary is needed to accommodate growth in the city's northern elementary schools, especially Mayfield and E.L. Ross.

In recent months, the system also had to face the unplanned closure of Cleveland High School's Raider Dome because of an unfavorable structural analysis. The structure housed the gymnasium and wellness classroom spaces.

Brian Templeton, of Upland Design Group, discussed with school board members options for replacing the current gymnasium. All options called for replacing wellness and classroom spaces and increasing the size of the gym floor.

The present gym floor, at 15,400 square feet, one basketball court and seating for 1,500 people, isn't large enough, said Autumn O'Bryan, principal of Cleveland High.

The smallest proposed alternative gym floor measures 16,000 square feet, offers two adjacent basketball courts and provides seating for 1,800 people. The largest -- and most expensive -- option measures 26,000 square feet, provides three full basketball courts with ample space between them and offers seating for 3,000.

"It boils down to what the taxpayers want to pay for," school board member Dawn Robinson said. "We've got to throw it out there and ask if [they] would be willing to pay more taxes."

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

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