Loudon County Board of Education will consider Thursday funding for a contract with Cope Architecture for a potential new school on the north end of the county.

During a workshop last week, Loudon County Director of Schools Mike Garren asked board members to OK up to $50,000 to look at possible school sites and a feasibility study for an addition to Philadelphia Elementary School.

Garren requested $25,000 for consideration of up to four sites and $20,000 for work at PES.

“Just as soon as the money is approved we can enter into a contract with Cope,” Garren said.

He emphasized the importance of planning ahead.

“I think based upon the enrollment increase that we’ve seen from the north end of the county, specifically at North Middle, with only two available classrooms left that could potentially fill up if we saw the same growth next year as we saw this year, that necessitates us to start planning now to make sure we’re prepared to move forward,” Garren said.

According to a Cope letter to the school board, the scope of work for new sites includes location, site size, topography/grading information, availability of utilities, transportation/access to major arteries, accessibility to existing public infrastructure, land ownership, zoning/regulatory compatibility and environmental impact.

“It takes a long time to get everything, first to find the land and then the whole process of deciding what we’re going to do,” Scott Newman, board member, said. “There will be meeting after meeting just to figure out size, cost, and then you’ve got to go in front of county commission. It’s very smart to start right now and get ahead of it. ... I think that we’re probably about two years away from having a big explosion of kids, because I mean they’re still building houses down here in Loudon. Look at all the things they’re building up there (in Lenoir City).”

Newman has been with the board since 2004 and helped plan the new Fort Loudoun Middle and Greenback schools constructed a few years ago. Although that effort took years, Newman doesn’t anticipate this time will be as long.

Board member Kenny Ridings agreed.

“I mean all the projected growth in the next couple of years we’re going to have to do something and I don’t know what else to do,” Ridings said.

Board member Kim Bridges said she believes planning ahead should prevent “hasty decisions.”

“I would like to see Cope locate property that has the necessary requirements needed for building a new school,” Bridges said in an email correspondence. “Such as location, site size, utilities, transportation concerns and zoning issues to name a few. I’d like to see them choose a site that works best for the community on the north end of the county.”

Findings would be presented during the spring board retreat, Garren said.

Garren also briefly touched on bus route numbers from a recent North Middle School survey that asked if families would be interested in transport to Loudon High School. More information could be presented in January, he said.

“I’m going to have Dawn (Cox, county schools transportation director) take those addresses and do a potential route to see if it’s possible to do it with one bus route,” Garren said. “Then I’ll bring that information back to the board so that they can make a better-informed decision on whether they want to add an additional route to what we have or whether they want to stay the way we are.”

If transportation is approved, Newman hopes the service provides an additional opportunity to families.

“If think once that starts that’ll grow,” he said.

Garren said he planned to keep Lenoir City Director of Schools Jeanne Barker aware of future school plans.

“We sat down and talked about it last week and I told her that as my board made decisions and as her board made decisions that we would stay in communication so that we can co-plan what we’re going to do so we’re not both trying to do the same thing,” he said.