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New Hamilton County school construction could relieve overcrowding

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Overcrowding in some Hamilton County schools could be eased if, as expected, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger's proposal for a property tax increase is approved by Commissioners on Wednesday.

Coppinger has proposed keeping the millage at the same rate after this year's property reappraisals, which would result in a tax increase of approximately ten percent for many county homeowners.  The additional revenue would provide about $100 million for new schools and school improvements.  Earlier this year, School Board members voted on a priority list for school replacements, placing new buildings for Harrison Elementary School and Chattanooga School for Liberal Arts at the top of the list.  Both schools are more than seventy years old.  Harrison has been plagued by raw sewage in hallways, and CSLA has battled mold and rodents.

Enrollment figures for the 2017-18 school year were released by school officials recently, revealing some significant increases in the county's fastest-growing areas.

Among schools with the largest enrollment increases between 2015 and 2017 are:  

  • Barger Academy, from 398 to 445 (up 47, due in part to Spring Creek rezoning)
  • Clifton Hills Elementary, from 525 to 589  (up 64, due in part to growing Hispanic population)
  • East Brainerd Elementary, from 915 to 1118 (up 203, due in part to new housing and apartments)
  • East Hamilton Middle/High from 1747 to 1805 (up 58, due to new housing and apartments)
  • Howard High from 763 to 887 (up 124, due in part to growing Hispanic population)
  • McConnell Elementary from 489 to 546 (up 57, due in part to Allen Elem. rezoning)
  • Ooltewah High from 1507 to 1552 (up 45,due to neighborhood growth)
  • Rivermont Elementary 185 to 275 (up 90, due to new open enrollment policy, a pilot program)
  • Signal Mtn. Middle/High 1227 to 1277 (up 50, due to community growth)
  • Soddy Elementary 394 to 489 (up 95, due in part of reassignment of some Falling Water students in 2016).

At the same time, many schools have experienced sharp declines in enrollment since 2015:

  • Allen Elementary 622 to 511 (down 111, students were rezoned to McConnell, to alleviate overcrowding)
  • Alpine Crest Elementary 326 to 276 (down 50, rezoning two years ago)
  • Daisy Elementary 496 to 387 (down 109, rezoning when Middle Valley Elem. opened)
  • Dupont Elementary 403 to 318 (down 85, rezoning, open enrollment for Rivermont)
  • East Lake Elementary  615 to 513 (down 98, rezoned due to overcrowding)
  • Orchard Knob Elementary 575 to 454 (down 121, described as transient neighborhood)
  • Red Bank Elementary 668 to 619 (down 49, high rental area)
  • Smith Elementary 657 to 595 (down 62, rezoned in 2015)
  • Soddy-Daisy Middle 485 to 426 (down 59, "enrollment fluctuation")
  • Spring Creek Elementary 729 to 678 (down 51, rezoned in 2015)
  • Westview Elementary 637 to 587 (down 50, rezoned in 2013)
  • Woodmore Elementary 325 to 263 (down 62, "transient neighborhood")

Schools not listed had an insignificant increase or decrease in enrollment.  The County Commission is expected to approve Mayor Coppinger's property tax increase proposal on Wednesday September 6.  School Board members meet on September 19, and are expected to discuss the school replacement/improvement plan they approved earlier this year.

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School Patrol

David Carroll covers education news and issues at schools across the Tennessee Valley.

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