Hamilton County Commissioners Debate Funding for Tyner Academy

Photo: Students from Tyner Academy speak at recent Hamilton County Commission Meeting

Photo Credit: HamiltonCountyTN / YouTube

Published August 30, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

Students from Tyner Academy stood before the Hamilton County Commission last week, demanding a response to their pleas for much needed repairs and renovations for their school as the debate over funding continues.

Chattanooga, Tennessee At Night

The school district has already agreed to move forward with plans to build a new facility to replace Tyner Middle and High Schools, but they need the Commission to assist with the funding.

Student Timetrius Lansden, along with two of his classmates, want to know why their school continues to wait for an upgrade, when those changes have been years in the making.

“Seeing that we are still left on the list and our school is still not being built, it really makes us wonder, why hasn’t our school been built yet?” Lansden asked County Commissioners.

Tyner seniors walked out last week, protesting the state of decay and mold in which they are forced to learn. 

“Tyner is crumbling down day by day, walls are coming in every day, mold is present publicly to the students, and we just feel unsafe as a whole,” said student Kaylea Moore.

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Student Jaylan Sims believes the conditions are forcing the school to have to sidestep some COVID guidelines.

“Our teachers are leapfrogging from classroom to classroom. How is that breaking COVID protocols and just making everyone’s year hectic?” Sims asked.

 Commissioners were in agreement that something needed to be done about Tyner.

“It is unacceptable to allow facilities to exist in our community in the year 2021 that are practically uninhabitable. We’ve had to close branches of it! It’s unacceptable,” said David Sharpe, District 6 Commissioner.

Sharpe also acknowledged that the county asks students and teachers to give their best to their education on a daily basis, but they are not being provided with an adequate learning environment to do so.

What leaders cannot agree on, however, is where the money will come from.

According to Deputy Superintendent Dr. Justin Robertson, the school system plans to use state funding that is intended for COVID relief to cover a portion of the costs.

“The school board has approved and the state has given preapproval for Esser 3 dollars, and that’s a grant of three funds we’re setting aside $25 million for this project. We recognize that is not enough to complete the project,” Robertson told the Commission.

The school system needs around $50 million more to be able to build the new facilities for grades 6-12.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the county was planning to work towards the new school as soon as the finances were available.

Commissioner Tim Boyd of District 8 took offense to the insinuation that Commissioners were not committed to providing adequate facilities.

Boyd said, “This has been an ongoing problem..don’t slap it on the Commissioners. I think we’ve done an exceptional job in securing funds for new facilities, over the years since I’ve been here.”

District 4 Commissioner Warren Mackey believes that continuing to ignore Tyner and push them farther down the list is a slap in the face to those students, alleging that the Commission has made schools in other areas of the county a priority.

“What are we saying to them? That they’re less important?” Mackey asked.

He continued, “How can you tell these kids you care for them and you won’t provide for them? I challenge my fellow commissioners, put your money where your mouth is. Certain parts of this county get overlooked time and time again.”

Chairman Pro Tempore Sabrena Smedley fired back, “I’m willing to work with all of you, but this divisive talk up here is not going to get us anywhere.”

School system leaders say that a move must be made quickly because ESSER funds must be used by August 2024. It is estimated that it will take a year for an architect to draw up plans and another two years for construction to be completed.

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About the Author:

Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

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