Bradley Co. school needs makeover, no money - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Bradley Co. school needs makeover, no money

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CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) - The rain made for a wet day for students and teachers at one Bradley County School.

Officials say they need millions of dollars to fix their problems which include leaks and outdoor walkways instead of halls.

Lake Forest Middle School in Cleveland has seen better days and rainy ones are just another reminder of their issues. Bradley County School officials hoped money from a proposed wheel tax last August would fund a makeover, but tax payers voted against adding another tax. Now school officials are looking for the money elsewhere.

"Very cold day in the winter and wind blowing rains and things. We don't have hallways, we have sidewalks," Lake Forest Middle School Principal Ritchie Stevenson said.

Lake Forest Middle School was built in the 70's with sidewalks connecting 17 "pods." Principal Stevenson says the design has never been practical and now leaking awnings make it that much worse.

"We've got a great maintenance department, and they've tried and tried to keep things up as best as possible, however, it's a huge task," Stevenson says.

Water seeps through walls and crumbles them. They've rearranged lockers to keep students indoors longer, but say they don't even have bathrooms in every building. So, teachers and the 1,105 students come with rain boots.

"I worry more about the students safety because they're in and out," sixth grade teacher Christie Dehart said.

School officials estimate it will take $14 million to do away with 10 of the pods and construct one academic building with upgraded heating and air.

"It would be a tremendous improvement," Stevenson said.

The problem is how to pay for it. Bradley County officials proposed a wheel tax to fund this and several other school projects, but voters struck it down-- many saying the school should spend the money it does have, wiser.

"It was a blow to us. we have to remember most people don't often vote themselves a tax," Stevenson said.

Now school officials are asking the county to pick up the tab. The finance committee will discuss the proposal Wednesday. Teachers are holding out hope they'll make it happen.

"It's not just about money, it's about our future and to provide a building that would keep our kids safer," Dehart said.

If the finance committee pushes it through, the $14 million request will go to the education committee, then to the county commission for a vote. Principal Stevenson wants to stress they're all working well together to come up with a solution for the facility they all agree is a problem.

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