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Cleveland schools facing serious overcrowding

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CLEVELAND, TN. (WRCB) -- Becca Estrada goes over the end of her lesson with her 5th grade class just before lunch.

She sees more students every year with less class space.

"Any teacher can tell you the more students they have, the less attention the students can have and that affects the quality of their education," Estrada says.

The 5th grade classrooms at Ross Elementary hold about 30 students.

New apartments going up nearby can hold 600 families, making the squeeze tighter and forcing Estrada to dig a little deeper for class supplies.

"I would say every teacher spends money for their class probably on a monthly basis," Estrada says.

The school system is already close to 200 students over capacity.

The new complex could double that.

City schools director, Martin Ringstaff, says rezoning isn't an option.

"Rezoning simply would not have worked before, and now it is definitely off the table," Ringstaff says. "All the schools are full. This type of quick growth really stresses what we are trying to do."

Ringstaff wants a $13 million facility, but voters recently said no to a wheel tax to pay for it.

Raising taxes is an option Ringstaff hopes to avoid.

"Hey, we aren't trying to beat the bush and raise personal property taxes," says Ringstaff. "That's not what we are trying to do."

Ringstaff says he's headed back to the drawing board on a solution before time runs out.

"What we are trying to do is sustain a great school system and that will take some creative thinking."

Ringstaff will meet with the city council in the coming weeks to discuss funding for a new school.

The plan is to have it up and running before the new apartments move the new families in.

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