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Hamilton Co. moving forward with new school plan

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HAMILTON COUNTY (WRCB)- Plans to deal with overcrowding in some Hamilton County Schools are moving at a quicker pace.

Channel 3 was there Thursday night as the school board approved phase one of a facilities overhaul, which includes two new schools.

Many in the community say the relief cannot come soon enough.

With the announcement Hamilton County is setting aside $50 million for new school construction, county leaders admit overcrowding is a growing problem.

"We're bursting at the seams. We've got portable classrooms. We have aged buildings. We've got to address that," says School Board Chairman Mike Evatt.

Superintendent Rick Smith echoes that sentiment.

"In my opinion, we're a bit behind in the east part of the county," says Smith.

Every single board member voted to approve the first phase. It calls for a new Ooltewah Elementary School and a new East Brainerd Elementary.

Wolftever and Snow Hill elementary schools will receive upgrades, Nolan Elementary will expand.

Sale Creek Middle and High schools will also receive additions.

Jackie Weekley has a granddaughter who goes to East Brainerd and welcomes the changes.

"It is extremely old and it's been needed for a long, long time," Weekley says. "The traffic in this area is horrible."

She says leaders should have built a new school a while ago.

"They had already moved the 4th and 5th graders from that school because it was so overcrowded," she says. "And it is still crowded."

Brandy Shadwick has a 4 year-old daughter zoned for East Brainerd next year.

"We were talking about it the other night," Shadwick says. "We've got to start making decisions."

Brandy and her husband are considering private or charter schools because of overcrowding and says Hamilton County school officials need to be planning for the future as more people move to the area.

"You've got to move with the times, you've got to grow with them," she says. "You can't expect your same schools to hold the growth, you just can't."

Superintendent Smith says, best case scenario, these new schools and additions will be done in two years.

The $50 million comes with no increase in property taxes or any other tax because the county is refinancing some bonds.

Officials say they will work as quickly as possible because they expect the growth in Hamilton County to continue.

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