Next school year, students at Lebanon High School will walk into the doors of a brand new state-of-the art facility, and plans for the old LHS are calling for a new Wilson County Middle School to alleviate overcrowding at elementary schools and move the county to a unified middle school curriculum, but when that will happen is up in the air.
Mike Davis, director of Wilson County Schools, said that in 2006 the county school system drew up a 10-year Capital Outlay Plan which included building the new LHS and moving students from the old building by the 2012-2013 school year.
Those plans are drawing near to a reality, but Davis indicated the plans for the old high school arent going to happen in the near future. The 2006 Capital Outlay Plan had the old LHS being converted into a county middle school, utilizing the newer portions of the building.
We never intended to put students back into those old sections, Davis said, referring to the original portions of the LHS building constructed in 1952.
Instead, portions of the building constructed in 1972 and 1995 would be utilized as a new middle school and would undergo their own renovations to include various improvements.
Davis said they would have access to the new high school by June 1, 2012 and would be able to start moving a wealth of material from the old school into the new. From desks to chairs, tables, filing cabinets to file servers and more, Davis said the move would take several months and would most likely not be concluded by the start of the school year.
Two months just isnt going to get it done. Well be moving things out of there next year up until the fall, he said.
So where would that leave the old high school? Davis said they plan on tearing down the portions built in 1952 and renovating the grounds and remaining portions of the building. Those demolitions and renovations would cost the county school system about $12 million.
During that process, Davis said all environmental issues, such as asbestos, would be dealt with according to regulations, and most of the areas of the old school that possibly contain asbestos would be demolished. The main portion that he proposed using as the middle school, the front two stories of the building, were already compliant with all regulations.
When all renovations were completed, Davis said they planned on moving sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from Tuckers Crossroads Elementary, Carroll Oakland Elementary and Southside Elementary into the building, filling it with around 700 students.
The move would alleviate overcrowding at those three schools and allow the county to eliminate all temporary classrooms at those schools. Davis said it would also make room for growth at the three schools.
This would be the right thing to do for the students, Davis said, pointing out that Lebanon Special School District recently did the same thing by opening Winfree Bryant Middle School.
The county system already has two middle schools, West Wilson and Mt. Juliet Middle, the latter of which is in the old Mt. Juliet High School. Having all sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in middle schools, Davis said, would allow those students to experience a more advanced curriculum.
Davis said Tuckers, Carroll Oakland and Southside all have small band programs, but by combining those middle school students into the old LHS building, it would make for a larger and better middle school band program.
According to the county schools director, the move would enhance the curriculum because new laws are requiring that teachers be certified in individual subjects for their grades and the curriculum will soon become more advanced for teachers who are only instructing sixth through eighth grades.
Also, the old LHS contains classrooms and especially science labs that would allow those students a chance to have more advanced science lessons.
The student-to-teacher ratio for a middle school is also different than a K-8 school, Davis explained. He said if they moved those students into the old LHS, they would have to hire about 25 teachers.
It would also cost additional funding for personnel and hiring all the people needed to open a new school, Davis said.
While he felt the plan was the right way to go and was positive about its possibilities, he said he didnt think it would happen anytime soon. The school board and Wilson County Commission would be the deciding bodies on when or if the old LHS is used as a middle school.
We need to take some time to gather all of the facts, Davis said.
In the meantime, Davis said there are no plans for Lebanon Highs old campus once the students are moved into the new building across town. He said there wouldnt be any action taken until the school board and county commission decide the best course of action.
By PATRICK HALL, staff writer.
Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.