Committee member Steve Morgan, at Tuesday night’s board meeting at Blythe-Bower Elementary School, made the motion that the board authorize Director of Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff to open negotiations on the property.
The site picked by the selection committee, made up of Dr. Murl Dirksen (chairman), Tom Cloud and Morgan, is located on the east side of North Lee Highway, across the highway from Tennessee Christian Preparatory School and a small retail mall featuring a Dollar General store.
The location is slightly more than a mile north of Bradley Square Mall and the Stuart Road-North Lee Highway intersection, and about a mile from Bradley County’s North Lee Elementary School.
Asked why this site was chosen, committee members said the location is in the anticipated residential growth area of the city.
The selected property is an 18-acre tract of the old Hardwick Farm, with about one fourth at the rear being outside city limits. With the front requiring a right of way onto North Lee Highway, there will be about 16 acres for school construction.
The school system’s Star Center is located just north of the property on the opposite side of North Lee Highway.
A factor in the selection of the property is that a huge residential development is planned for adjacent sites, which will include some retail property.
It is believed the location of a new, modern elementary school at this location could be an incentive for the developer in enticing potential homeowners, thus a bargaining chip in Ringstaff’s negotiations for purchase of the property.
The property was selected over a second location on Georgetown Road northwest of the city. The North Lee site was the committee’s choice, with its location in the north growth area.
Bradley County recently constructed a new fire department facility less than a mile north of this tentative school site.
Dirksen, site committee chair, informed board members they have notes from recent meetings concerning the selection of a new school site. He added the committee has also discussed the future of the Little Theater at Cleveland High School, but has not yet come up with a recommendation.
Morgan made the motion to begin negotiation for the selected site. “We’ve been knocking around (on this) for some time,” he said. “We should have already built a new school. It’s past time.”
Committee members emphasized that no negotiations (on the property) have yet taken place.
Ringstaff acknowledged he has talked with several members of the Cleveland City Council concerning a new elementary school. He said they agree “the interest is there, and the need is there.”
The director of schools said City Council members agree something must be done, but there is concern about where it will be built.
Dirksen said the board now needs to talk about what money might be available ... to purchase the property and construct a new school. Ringstaff said he has not talked about money (with city officials) “whatsoever.”
Morgan said there is a varying consensus on the selected new school site.
The vote on the new school site was unanimous, with no one abstaining. There was little discussion on the matter.