UPDATE: It took six months to compile the initial data according to Dan Schmidt with MGT Consulting. One Hamilton County School Board member did raise concerns during Tuesday's meeting about what this data could mean for her county. 

Two of the 15 Hamilton County Schools that could close are in District 5 school board member Karitsa Jones' district. Tyner Middle School and Lakeside Academy are both on the list of closed schools.

Hillcrest Elementary could have their students split up between two other schools, and that building would be re-purposed for other programs. Dalewood Middle School Students would be moved to Orchard Knob MS, and that building would be renovated and re-purposed for CCA. 

"I know that since I've been on the board in 2014 it's are they going to close our schools, and no they're not closing them because they're low performing or its not being recommended that they close for low performing, it's being recommended for population and I know that numbers matter," said Jones. "I get it, I get the rationale but it's just going to kill our community."

Schmidt said the list was compiled using data. 

"But that doesn't mean that we are ignorant of reality, and that doesn't mean that we aren't ultimately factoring emotion in as well," said Schmidt.

The data shows it will cost $1.36 billion dollars to put the ten year plan to work. 

They use a formula for each school:

(100-score) x building square footage x cost per square foot = cost to renovate school.

That price tag came from the sum of the cost of all the school's renovations. 

"We develop these guidelines through meetings with your academic leadership with the district," said Schmidt. "So it's drawn from national standards but it's tailored to expectations here."

An engineer or an architect, someone with a background in educational facilities, and an educator toured all 74 Hamilton County Schools.

They focus on four categories:

  • Building Condition
  • Educational Suitability 
  • Technology Readiness
  • Grounds Conditions 

 

Educational suitability and Technology readiness both have an even more focused set of criteria. 

  • Environment: The rooms should provide an inviting and stimulating environment for learning
  • Size: The room should meet the sq. footage standards
  • Location: The rooms should be appropriately located for the program.
  • Storage/Fixed Equipment: The rooms should have adequate storage space and fixed equipment appropriate to the program. 

"Anytime we score something less than good, there's a comment saying why we scored it less than good," said Schmidt.

Here's an example of a school assessment sheet.

Sequoyah Vocational High School scored a 68. There are comments left on the side like, "interior classrooms don't have natural light, and the HVAC system is inconsistent. 

This score is what contributes to the maintenance cost formula. 

"If the school scores a 50% then you have to spend half of the value or half of the price of a new building renovating that building and that doesn't make financial sense," said Schmidt. 

Schmidt said closing schools, renovating, and consolidating will help reduce costs over time. 

"To reduce that amount we go down to 855 million this doesn't include any revenue generation from sale of real estate or from efficiencies gained from reduced operation expenses," said Schmidt. 

Capacity and enrollment were also considered as part of the formula. Capacity and enrollment were also considered as part of the formula. 

Schmidt said schools are all over the board, with some operating around 50% and others are operating at more than 120%.  

 

 


PREVIOUS STORY: The MGT Consulting Group spent three hours presenting their preliminary findings on what to do about facility maintenance and renovations for Hamilton County Schools to the county commission and school board on Tuesday.

They presented their preliminary findings, and they won’t make a formal recommendation until December.

The plan presented Tuesday is based off of a 10-year plan for Hamilton County.

In the current report, it would cost $1.36 billion to renovate and repair all 74 Hamilton County schools in 10 years not factoring in inflation.

With the consulting group's suggestions, they hope to bring down that number to $855-million.

Dan Schmidt, director of MGT Consulting, was hired by the county to help the county achieve these goals. Schmidt said they have a boots on the ground approach.

"So it's about walking every single school in the district. So we sent two people into each one of the 74 schools,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt and his team have been collecting this data since January.

"We forecasted enrollment based on demographic projects based on demographic dynamics,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt recommended closing 15 schools:

  • Alpine Crest ES
  • Lookout Mountain ES
  • Lookout Valley ES
  • Lakeside ES
  • Normal Park (Lower)
  • Normal Park (Upper)
  • Soddy Daisy MS
  • Tyner MS
  • Rivermont ES
  • Sequoyah Vocational HS
  • CSLA
  • CSAS
  • Barger ES
  • Clifton Hill ES
  • Harrison Bay Vocational HS

Among these schools like Rivermont ES and Normal Park (Lower) who scored 59% and 55% on their facility assessments. 

Those assessments take four categories into account:

  • Building Condition
  • Grounds Condition
  • Educational Suitability
  • Technological Resources

The way they are scored from top to bottom is 50, 30, 10, 10 

When talking about closing a school Schmidt said that they take a few things into the account. 

The cost to run a school. 

"At some point, the cost of running that school exceeds the per-pupil funding that you get for that school," said Schmidt.

Also the need in an area. 

"For a closure do we need capacity in that area," said Schmidt. "It's not just about what's happening in this school but its about what's happening in that part of the community."

And needed renovations are also discussed. 

"You have to spend half of the value or half of the price of a new building renovating an that building and that doesn't make financial sense," said Schmidt. 

The plan also calls for renovating 11 schools. Ten schools could be renovated and receive additions, three schools could be replaced (torn down and rebuilt), three new buildings, nine re-purposed schools, seven relocated programs, and 15 closed schools.

"Data might sound all nice and clean when you talk about it when you start putting the emotional and the community nuances over it, that's when we make it a plan for this community,” said Schmidt.

Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson and County Mayor Jim Coppinger agree that they have a monumental task ahead of them.

"We have to do some things from a standpoint of operations to take the next step and we have to do some things in regards to capital to take the next step, so we don't become excellent by doing the same thing,” said Dr. Johnson.

Mayor Coppinger said these suggestions are meant to better utilize funding for the capital side of schools.

"People say why don't we run government like a business? So what you saw today was him looking at a business model that says hey you need to close 15 schools,” said Mayor Coppinger.

Schmidt said community involvement will be crucial.

"It's an educational facilities plan and it's about making the right solutions so that the kids here in Hamilton county have an optimal learning environment,” said Schmidt.

That’s why Mayor Coppinger and the consulting company wants citizens to weigh in.

"I think that's why the next few months are particularly important with the community forums and having to listen to what people have to say,” said Coppinger.

Community meetings will be held in October and November. A final recommendation will be given by the consulting company in December

Stay with the WRCB app for updates to this story.


PREVIOUS STORY: Hamilton County school administrators are sharing their facilities report Tuesday.

The report, a long-awaited study commissioned by HCBOE Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson, was to examine the existing school buildings and help the board determine the future of the aging structures.

The school district brought MGT Consulting in to review and assess the facilities.

Below you can read the report.