HARRISON, TN (WRCB)- Most large Hamilton County high schools, old and new, have two gymnasiums. Many have a gymnasium and an auditorium for theater productions.
Central High, more than 900 students strong, has one gymnasium. The building also houses the school's weight room, JROTC, choral music and band programs. Every assembly, talent show, or theater production must compete with the sounds and aromas emanating from the room next door.
This is why some students were outraged to learn that Central High was supposed to have an auditorium shortly after the school was built in 1968, replacing an older facility on Dodds Avenue. Architectural drawings and floor plans were uncovered recently that show a multi-purpose auditorium, with classrooms, music rooms and storage areas was "to be built at a later date."
Forty-five years have passed, and the date is still apparently much later. Ray Walker, a senior and editor of the school's online newspaper is asking Hamilton County to "keep its promise," and construct a new gymnasium, or auditorium for Central. "It's disappointing that we seem to always get overlooked," Walker said. "You look at other high schools, even middle schools, and they have better facilities than we do. Central is a great old school with a lot of pride, but people seem to forget about us."
Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith admits he was unaware of the 1968 auditorium plan until shown a copy by Channel 3. "Of course I wasn't around back then as an administrator," Smith said. "But we're always looking for ways to improve our school campuses. We are looking at several plans for the schools in the Harrison area, and we want to do what's best for Central and the other schools."
Funding issues apparently put a halt to the project in the 1960s, and are still a factor today, according to School Board Chairman Mike Evatt, who represents Central in District 9. "We're looking at some new schools in the near future, but this (an addition at Central) is not in the immediate plan," Evatt said. "We have to look at population growth, and decide what our priorities will be."
Central High principal Finley King, an alumnus of the school, hopes the recently discovered floor plans will spur students, parents and county officials into action. "Now that we know what we were supposed to have, students have started asking questions. We try to do an awful lot in that one gymnasium, and I would love for our students to have the best educational experience possible. A fine arts program is important to a school, and it's hard to do fine arts well when your facilities are limited."
At least one county commissioner says he will go to bat for the school in its efforts to upgrade. Chester Bankston of District 9, whose children graduated from Central said, "I will support them all the way. This community deserves what everyone else already has. We really need to build a new Harrison Elementary, but maybe there's a way to do this project in a way that will benefit Central."
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