Sale Creek overcrowding: "Don't forget about us!"
SALE CREEK, TN (WRCB)- Sale Creek Middle High School is a school with an unusual history. In just 38 years, Sale Creek has opened, closed, reopened, renovated and added on to its existing facilities. In 2011 this school built to hold 370, with 54 parking spaces and two sets of bathrooms is now bursting at 513 students.
Located in northern Hamilton County, this "hidden gem," as School Board member Rhonda Thurman calls it, has never attracted much attention to itself. As recently as 1999, it housed only 83 students. As the Sale Creek-Bakewell area attracted new residents, a 10-classroom expansion was added in 2003. And in the past two years, enrollment has exploded from 415 to 513 for grades 6-12.
Art teacher Tim Smith came to the school in 2000, and also serves as the middle school football coach, with an eye on varsity play in the future. Yet the school falls short on facilities in both of his specialties: there's no football field, and his art classroom has no sink or running water. "When we have rinse brushes or do any clean-up, we have to run down the hall to the restroom," he says. Restrooms are another rare commodity. There are two for each gender in the entire school, serving a 513-student population.
Smith says, "Long-term, the answer is obvious. We need a new facility. People keep moving in here, and we have no place to put them."
His answer is echoed by principal Robin Copp, who has watched the school grow for the past seven years, as a teacher and administrator. "We've maxed out our building. We've put portable buildings everywhere we can to accommodate our middle school classes, but they tell me we don't have room for any more. Those portable buildings are nice enough, but they're outside. And this community deserves better science labs and other learning tools that we just don't have room for."
Copp is proud of her school's 100 percent graduation rate during the past two years, and says this year's senior class of 66 is so large, commencement exercises will, for the first time, be held in downtown Chattanooga "with all of the other schools." New classes and an expansion of the athletic program are being considered, but school officials say no major moves can be made unless Sale Creek is given room to grow.
Superintendent Rick Smith says School Board members will be discussing new facilities plans soon, including the top current crisis, overcrowding at East Hamilton School. That three-year-old middle-high school has exceeded all forecasts, mushrooming to more than 2100 students, well over its capacity.
Smith said, "We've got to deal with East Hamilton, and the eastern part of the county as Volkswagen and other industries continue to make a big impact there. But we can't forget Sale Creek either." He said that the school district owns land behind North Hamilton Elementary in Bakewell and will consider building a high school there in the near future. Under that plan, the current Sale Creek facility would become a middle school.
Smith said, "For a high school these days, you really need land for the athletic facilities, and we just don't have that on the Sale Creek property. But that's a discussion we'll be having in the very near future."