Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Even as they enjoyed the newly restored Don Patterson Field and football stadium, those attending the Ringgold versus Dalton football game could see remnants of the destruction caused by a tornado that struck Ringgold April 27, 2011.
Beyond the eastern bleachers, a canopy of leafy green leaves softens the scar where a twister tore across Taylor’s Ridge on its way to Cherokee Valley. And spectators on either the home or visitor’s stands could see, just beyond the southern goalposts, where work to rebuild the middle school continues.
The sixth- and seventh-grade sections had all-new ceiling grids and tiles, flooring, lighting and wiring for electric, data and security systems replaced during the summer of 2011 and students used that part of the building last year.
But the eighth- and part of the seventh-grade wings were so damaged — the roof collapsed, windows were shattered and a 30-ton air-conditioning unit was blown away, never to be found — that they were condemned and demolished.
More than a year has passed since that storm slashed across the campus shared by the high and middle schools. From the rubble, a new stadium arose and a new middle school building is rapidly rising.
“The old wing was totally revitalized,” said Doug Suits, director of operations for Catoosa County Public Schools. “Now, construction is on pace to open the new building for use after the Christmas break. That’s what we hope.”
The new building referred to was designed by Ray Boaz of Chattanooga-based DH&W Architects.
“We’ve taken a lot of pride and enjoyment in helping turn a tragic event into something positive,” he said. “It is exciting to see something better come out of all the destruction.”
Boaz’s firm oversaw recovery efforts at the less-damaged portions of the middle school last year.
“The existing building has been totally renovated from top to bottom — from its very bones,” he said. “This addition ties into the entire campus that houses both schools.”
The campus now has a consistent color scheme and design for its brick exteriors, windows, doors and decorative trim.
“One of the greatest goals was to give the school system a design that allows flexibility for future expansion,” Boaz said.
On a tour of the construction site, where walls are framed but not finished and where some windows have glass while others are open to the elements, Suits pointed out a few changes that will update the look and feel of the 42,187-square-foot structure.
Window glass is tinted to reduce glare and heat gain, some walls will feature exposed brick and some common areas will have a floor-to-ceiling distance of at least two floors.
“Kids do well in open spaces,” Suits said.
Construction is costing about $5.4 million and is being paid for by a combination of insurance money, state entitlement funds and some revenue generated by ESPLOST, the voter-approved sales tax dedicated to capital projects in the schools.
The rebuilding process will continue through the first semester and plans call for the building to be ready for use when students return from their Christmas holiday.
“That’s what we hope,” Suits said.