A new elementary school and a new gymnasium at Cleveland High School were discussed as top needs for Cleveland City Schools during a recent Cleveland City Council strategic planning session.
Cleveland City Schools Director Dr. Martin Ringstaff listed both as immediate needs for the school system.
“The new elementary school must stay on the radar,” Ringstaff said.
Work would need to start next month in order to open the school in August 2015.
Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel said in order to give the school system funding to pay the architect and move forward with the project, the Council would need to pass a resolution to pay itself back from a future bond issue.
To keep the timeline requested by the director of schools, the vote would have had to be passed Monday.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said he saw the new school as the top priority and the gymnasium as secondary.
Ringstaff said closing the Raider Dome at Cleveland High School “has created an instructional issue. It is mandatory for us, in our eyes, for instructional purposes,” he said.
Classes that had met in the gym have been moved to other areas of the school. Some are meeting in classrooms when teachers have their planning time.
“We have done some interesting adjusting,” Ringstaff said.
Ringstaff said he is working with an architect to obtain cost estimates for building a new gym. Estimates were not available at the time of the meeting and were expected to be presented to the Cleveland Board of Education within the next month.
Demolition will require careful planning because the main water pipe and water heaters for the school are below the Raider Dome floor.
“We couldn’t demolish it until summertime,” Ringstaff said.
The Dome ceiling may be removed sooner than that, if possible, to decrease the risk of it collapsing. The way the gymnasium is constructed the Dome would have to be removed first.
“It is an interesting logistical issue as far as demolition,” Ringstaff said.
Walls of the Raider Dome were not reinforced to add extra support for the structure when it was built. The weight of the domed ceiling on the bricks has caused the walls to bow out, and other issues.
Construction of a new gymnasium is estimated to take nine to 10 months once the project begins.
“So we are looking at a year and a half minimum that we do not have physical education classes in a gymnasium at Cleveland High,” Ringstaff said.
The director said the companies that constructed the Dome have since gone out of business. The Raider Dome was built in 1965.
Councilman David May asked if tornadoes in the past two years might have been a contributing factor.
Ringstaff said the school system’s insurance company is looking into whether there could be any insurance money from the damage.
Cleveland Board of Education member Dawn Robinson announced to the Council the board would vote on committing any funding received from the Bradley County Commission to the projects. Robinson said the money would come in if the Commission borrows money for a Bradley County Schools capital project.