Thursday, September 20, 2012
The Hamilton County Commission and School Board are one step closer to reaching an agreement that will allow the architect selection process for a new East Brainerd Elementary School to resume, but an official agreement has not yet been reached.
School Board Attorney Scott Bennett presented the Hamilton County Commission a revised interlocal agreement at last week’s Commission agenda session detailing the way both governmental entities could work with the titling and sales of school property in the future. The County Commission halted all progress on the new school, including the architect selection process, until the School Board had submitted that information and the Commission had approved it.
If the Commission votes this week to approve the newly drafted interlocal agreement, architect selection will resume and progress can continue on the new elementary school that was originally planned to open for the 2014-2015 school year.
“I feel really optimistic about today’s progress,” said School Board District 7 representative Donna Horn, who currently represents East Brainerd Elementary. “I think the fact that board members were able to be here today and let [the Commission] know we’re concerned was favorable for both sides. I just hope we can come to an agreement and get this process started.”
According to Gary Waters, Hamilton County Department of Education assistant superintendent of auxiliary services, the School Board typically supports a 12-month design period and 14-month construction period for a new school the size of proposed East Brainerd Elementary. With approximately 22 months between now and the school’s scheduled opening date, Waters said both the design and construction phases would need to be shortened in order to meet that schedule.
“At this point it’s going to be extremely difficult to meet that opening date, but we are going to do everything in our power to make our schedule,” he said.
Horn said time is of the essence and it’s important to move this issue forward as quickly as possible. Multiple commissioners expressed concern during the agenda session about what they see as a lack of communication between the two entities, which has in part led to the current stalemate.
“The biggest reason why we’re here this morning is because this overall issue is due in part, not totally, but in part because of a lack of communication between the Commission and the Board of Education,” said Hamilton County District 8 Commissioner Tim Boyd.
He proposed that the Commission redesign the education committee to help both bodies understand each other’s concerns better and foster a sense of collaboration between the two.
“I think the Commission hit the nail on the head with communication,” said Horn. “With new bodies on the board maybe we can warm [the Commission] up a bit and help them trust the board a little more. Good communication is absolutely essential.”