The County School Board on Thursday night approval architect Vance Travis to design a new East Brainerd Elementary School, though the County Commission the day before had balked on the idea.
School Board member Rhonda Thurman said the vote was "poking our finger in the eye of the commission," but board member Greg Martin said it was "the responsible thing to do." The vote was 8-1.
Gary Waters, maintenance and building director, said there can't be much more delay or the new school won't be ready to open on the campus of the former David Brainerd School by the fall of 2014.
Linda Mosley, outgoing board member, said the new school is drastically needed to replace the current school on East Brainerd Road.
School officials talked of setting up a meeting with county officials to work toward resolving the impasse. Commission members said they want assurance that funds from the sale of the old school go to build new schools or buy property for new schools. They also said they want an outline of the planned school building program.
The board also voted to let county real property begin marketing the current East Brainerd Elementary site as well as Ooltewah Elementary, which is also being replaced. Also to be put on the market will be the former Piney Woods School site and the old East Lake School campus.
The board approved the sale of the old Brainerd Junior High School to Dr. W.C. "Bud" Helton, who said he was ready to move ahead despite the fact that he has not yet obtained the rezoning he is seeking.
Dr. Helton earlier gave Paul Parker, county property manager, an $11,000 down payment on the $110,000 purchase price of the school that was last operated as the 21st Century Academy.
He said he plans to rehab the handsome school that was designed by famed Chattanooga architect R. H. Hunt. Then he said he will go forward on the rezoning, he said. It is now zoned R-1.
The board voted to spend $6.2 million for a new HVAC system at the 58-year-old Brainerd High School, though officials confirmed that amount is a quarter of the capital budget over four years.
One bid of three for the project was $8.9 million. The low bid was by T.S. Raulston Mechanical.
Officials said even using prior and current capital funds and a $1.3 million state grant there is still a shortfall of $935,000, including engineering expenses. Officials said that amount will come from next year's capital funds or from fund balance.
Board member Martin said there are many other capital needs at the schools, including leaky roofs at Loftis and McConnell schools.
Board member George Ricks said, "It's time to stop playing games and tell the County Commission we need more money."
Board member David Testerman said money is also needed to keep bright young teachers from going to North Georgia or elsewhere for higher pay. He said teacher salaries and starting pay need to be raised. "We're losing good teachers and it's affecting our schools," he said.
It was the final meeting for Chip Baker, who served 12 years, and Linda Mosley, who was on the board for four years. They will be replaced by Dr. Jonathan Welch, a Signal Mountain dentist whose wife is a school guidance counselor, and Donna Horn, a retired teacher.