John Shearer: Seeing Signal Mountain High For The First Time

Friday, August 11, 2017 - by John Shearer

The fact that the Signal Mountain schools have been in the local news lately as residents there look at possibly forming their own school district started me thinking.
 
Primarily, it made me curious to see what the high school looks like in person, because I have never seen it up close before.
 
As a result, I decided to drive by it and take some pictures while up on the mountain last Saturday for the World’s Longest Yard Sale.
 
It was a longer-than-expected drive down Shackleford Ridge Road to get there, and I realized it might take even some residents of the mountain at least 10 minutes or more to get there.

 
Because of its out-of-the-way location on top of the scenic mountain, I realized that a lot of Chattanoogans from other parts of town who don’t have children playing sports against Signal Mountain High or Middle School have not seen it, either.
 
As a result, those pictures of the outside of the school that accompany this brief story are intended for them, too.
 
As I expected, it is a nice brick school. It has a central entrance and is two stories tall. It actually resembles a little more the brick schools of old than some other local schools built in the last 20 or 30 years. 
 
The long building houses both the Signal Mountain high and middle schools in one structure.
 
A real eye-catcher is the statue of an eagle, the school’s nickname and symbol, on the sidewalk between the main entrance and the gymnasium.
 
The architect for the school was Derthick, Henley and Wilkerson (DH&W), who have also done such other recent educational projects as Middle Valley Elementary, Heritage High in North Georgia and the new UTC Library.
 
On its website, the architectural firm describes the 262,000-square-foot Signal Mountain High/Middle High building as being carefully knit into the existing recreation area.
 
“The topography organizes the Middle and High School functions along a major spine, while separating academic and athletic areas by floor levels,” the website says.
 
It adds that the building was built with infrastructure to support any additions that could help house a total capacity of 1,500 students.
 
The athletic fields are terraced as one enters the school grounds. The way they are cut out of the woods reminds me of a golf course built on the far edge of suburbia.
 
The older Nolan Elementary is back closer to the Town of Signal Mountain along the same road.
 
The then-$40 million Signal Mountain High/Middle High building had been dedicated in late July 2008. The festivities had an emotional tone due to the fact that structure had been planned for so long. Some had wondered if a high school for the mountain would ever become a reality.
 
Among those proud officials on hand were Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, Hamilton County Commissioner Richard Casavant, Hamilton County school board member Chip Baker and then-Signal Mountain principal Ed Gravitte.
 
Mr. Gravitte, who had started on Signal Mountain as a middle school teacher at the old location just off Signal Mountain Boulevard, seemed especially touched, as he said he had dreamed of one day becoming a principal of such a school.
 
“What a day!” he said to a school auditorium crowd of around 400 waiting to enjoy the open house.
 
While the feeling in 2008 was one of collective excitement, now the Signal Mountain schools issue regarding whether a separate district should be formed seems to have people throughout Hamilton County noisily taking sides.
 
But last Saturday, in contrast to the traffic jams on Highway 127 a couple of miles or so away, it was quiet around the school except for an occasional other vehicle driving through the parking lot while I took a few pictures.
 
This past week, the sounds of energetic middle school and high school students returned, and some noise will likely be heard in the near future as well from adults debating whether a separate school district should be formed.  
 
Jcshearer2@comcast.net


D9 Mailbox Gathering Is Sept. 9

Traditionally, the "Mailbox" was where people gathered to receive and send important information. Therefore D9"s stakeholders will gather at the location below in a family friendly meeting environment.  The District 9 "Mailbox" Gathering will be held at 615 Derby St. on Saturday, Sept. 9, from 10 a.m.-noon.  Make a reservation to attend at dcoonrod@chattanooga.gov.  ... (click for more)

New Firefighters Confirmed By Dalton Public Safety Commission

At  Tuesday  morning’s meeting of the Dalton Public Safety Commission, Firefighter III Robbie Townsend was assigned to the Dalton Fire Department’s Training Division as an instructor. The reassignment fills the vacancy left by Keith Dempsey’s promotion last month to Training Division Coordinator. Mr. Townsend has served with the fire department since March 2008. He ... (click for more)

Girlfriend Says Wright Was Driving Her PT Cruiser When He Left With Pair Whose Bodies Were Found At Cemetery

The girlfriend of William Howard Wright testified Tuesday that Wright and "Little Tony" were with two youths whose bodies were afterward found in a cemetery at Shepherd. General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck bound two counts of criminal homicide and especially aggravated robbery to the Grand Jury against Wright. A 17-year-old is facing similar charges. The girlfriend ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Police Pay Increases Announced

Chattanooga Police officers will be earning more under a $1.4 million pay improvement plan announced Tuesday. New officers would get increases in each of their first six years with the department, which has been dealing with a number of newly trained officers going to other cities. City officers now make $35,913 upon joining the force. Under the plan, they will receive about ... (click for more)

The Soul Of Chattanooga Is In Trouble

As a child growing up in the Chattanooga area, at an early age I became fascinated with the history that cloaks the city. In those days there was enough pollution to cover the town and its history but that didn't stop tourists from coming to visit Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge and the Chickamauga battlefield.     Chattanooga's leadership was not very far sighted ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Ordinary To Extraordinary

A handsome black guy, from the looks of it still in high school, appeared in a video during A Celebration of Valor luncheon at the Chattanooga Convention Center Tuesday afternoon and described a Medal of Honor winner. Easily over 500 were there, including our famed Charles Coolidge, and all heard this young achiever say, “A Medal winner if an ordinary person who performs in an extraordinary ... (click for more)