Ringstaff asks city’s help for new school
by DAVID DAVIS Managing Editor
Oct 24, 2012 | 1254 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The director of Cleveland City Schools said Monday that people wanting to move to Cleveland, and the increasing construction of townhomes and apartment complexes is a good problem to have, “[But] we just need some place to put the children.”

Dr. Martin Ringstaff told the Cleveland City Council that analyses show an elementary school with a combined cafeteria, slanted roof and geothermal system, plus land, would cost about $13 million.

The City Council will discuss the problem of funding a new school at a joint meeting with the Bradley County Commission on Oct. 31.

Upland Design Group of Crossville, and Cope Architecture of Knoxville, each estimated a 75,000-square-foot school built for 500 students would cost about $140 per square foot.

By comparison, Mayfield is 86,700 square feet and cost $157.09 per square foot when it opened in October 2005.

“We’re going less square footage and we can do that based on a combined cafeteria and auditorium,” Ringstaff said. “I’m trying to be very frugal here, I promise. I don’t want to waste taxpayer money, but at the same time, I want to keep our school system as one of the best in the state. We are quickly becoming overcrowded and any help would be greatly appreciated.”

Cleveland City Councilman Richard Banks said Monday that it is time to formulate a “Plan B” to pay for a new elementary school since “Plan A” failed. “Plan A” was a referendum for a wheel tax that was soundly defeated in the August election.

Councilman David May said history will show that education is one of the top priorities of the City Council.

Councilman Bill Estes asked why a school should be build for 500 students if it would be overcrowded again in 18 months. He asked if the school board had considered building a school that could accommodate more than 500 students.

“I understand you want small subpopulation subgroups for reporting for No Child Left Behind. I understand that and I understand community schools as well,” Estes said. “I really think you need to look two schools down the line.”

Ringstaff said they have talked about what happens after the next school is built, and population trends.

“We’re specifically targeting Cleveland Middle because there will be an issue there before another elementary school, in my opinion,” he said. “We can expand at Cleveland Middle and then you get to the discussion of what’s too large.

“The reason we stuck to 500 is because it is cost effective. You build for 700, your square footage goes up and your price goes up,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is something palatable to the City Council and to us, then maybe growth levels off and maybe it doesn’t.”

Ringstaff said the student population of city schools is 5,186. In the next four years, student enrollment is expected to reach 5,742 in 2016-17. While the number of schools has remained the same over the past seven years, attendance has increased by 708 students.

The director of schools said several city elementary schools are overcrowded or at capacity. Construction of several new apartment complexes, schools that have maintained a steady but stable enrollment are facing enrollment challenges in the future they cannot handle.

Ringstaff told the Council that only Yates Primary is below capacity, but it too, will be overpopulated with the addition of 324 apartments on Adkisson Drive. Shumate Development Corporation of Westerville, Ohio, broke ground on the first 180 units earlier today.

Using guidelines published by the American Planning Association, the school system can expect one student per unit.

“I’m even going to cut that in half. Even if it was 100 students going into Ross and Yates, we simply don’t have the room to sustain that kind of growth in Ross and Yates,” he said.

Mayfield Elementary has grown 82 percent from 304 in 2005-06 to 554 this year.

“The majority of growth ... is in the Mayfield and Arnold school zones. Out of 403 new elementary students in the seven-year span, 350 are in these two school zones. Eighty-seven percent of the growth occurred in these two school zones for the elementary schools,” he said. “The 119 new units at Spring Creek are dead-direct in Mayfield. We will not be able to handle the 119-student growth at Mayfield. Rezoning doesn’t help because all of our schools are full.”

He said overall growth projections did not include the 440-plus apartment already mentioned, or 20 new Habitat for Humanity homes being built in the Arnold zone.