According to county schools supervisor of secondary education Dan Glasscock, an average middle school population across the state of Tennessee is 594 students. Both Ocoee and Lake Forest Middle Schools each have close to 1,200 students. Glasscock said the “ideal” size of a middle school is 500 students, with no more than 800.
Glasscock said research has shown that schools too large in population have proven to be “bureaucratic, inefficient and not flexible.”
“If we split our two schools even today, we’d still have three schools that would be ‘maxed’ out at what the recommendation is by most educators across the country. That’s if we built one right now,” said Glasscock.
Also on the list of priorities included extensive renovation needs at Lake Forest Middle.
Lake Forest was built in the mid 1970s based off a design of a school in south Florida. The school is a “pod school” with 17 separate buildings connected only by awnings.
According to LFMS Principal Ritchie Stevenson, the school still has the original flooring in different parts of its buildings, some of which contains asbestos. LFMS still has the original 1970s lockers. Several awnings are rusted out with no guttering. The school also uses a boiler system, rather than geothermal wells, which creates high utility costs. The parking lot is in need of repairs.
Walker Valley High School Principal Danny Coggin advised committee members the high school, which was built for a core capacity of 1,000 students and max capacity of 1,400, has exceeded 1,500 students this school year.
Coggin said he has had to be creative in making classrooms by turning the school’s once five computer labs, two science labs and book store into classroom space.
“We have 17 teachers with carts who have to move from class to class every day,” said Coggin.
Board members recommended an eight-classroom add-on wing which would only accommodate the school’s existing growth.
“With this wing, how many classrooms would this give you,” asked Finance Committee Chairman Connie Wilson.
“None. It would give us back our computer labs, science labs and book store which the students really need,” said Coggin.
Other priorities on the needs assessment included securing land and building an elementary school on the south side of the county and building an additional elementary school on the north side.
“We realize there are hard times right now. This isn’t the most flourishing time in the economy so we came back, scaled back our needs as far as we possibly could to say this is the minimum that we need in order for us to step forward just a little bit,” said Bradley County Board of Education Chairman Troy Weathers.
“We’re being very conservative in, our opinion, with these requests,” said Weathers.
Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel advised committee members if funding is not provided for the growth the Board of Education would have to return to the Commission to request funding for portables.
Education Committee Chairman Jeff Yarber addressed the committees by saying, “We would be remiss not to take their [Board of Education] plan seriously to discuss it and try to come up with a meet.”
The Education Committee and Finance Committee will meet Friday at noon to discuss funding for the county schools needs assessment.
The Board of Education has scheduled a field trip with Committee members Feb. 23 to Lake Forest Middle and Walker Valley High schools.