Today is Wednesday, August 23, 2017

School growing pains (and plans) discussed

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Dr. Donna Wright

School Board faces immediate growth issues

Several Wilson County schools are bursting at the seams.

Both the high school and middle school in Mt. Juliet and four elementary schools in the west end of the county all have too many children for the number of classrooms in the buildings.

Because of the crowding, Mt. Juliet High School is holding classes in both its cafeteria and its library. Meanwhile, in the old high school building, Mt. Juliet Middle School has enough rooms, but it is serving 1,547 students instead of the ideal 1,200 or fewer that a middle school should serve.

While West Wilson Middle School is not over the number of students its building is planned for, its enrollment of 1,149 is only a few students away from the ideal 1,200 limit. Mt. Juliet and West Wilson are among the largest middle schools in the state.

The four crowded elementary schools are Elzie D. Patton, Gladeville, Stoner Creek and W. A. Wright, which each have 50 to 100 extra students. These schools are coping by holding classes in portables, locker rooms and cafeterias.

Three of the four schools - Elzie Patton, Stoner Creek and W. A. Wright - have no land to expand onto.

So in a special work session Saturday, members of the Wilson County School Board discussed potential solutions to the growth that the county has already experienced, as well as expected needs that continued growth could bring.

The information comes from a report prepared by Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects for Wilson County Schools.

'18 more rooms at MJHS?'

To respond to the crowding problems, proposals were presented to the Wilson County School Board at Saturday's work session to build an expansion at Mt. Juliet High School with 18 more rooms, which would allow MJHS to serve an additional 500 Golden Bears.

Plans were also proposed to expand Gladeville and Tuckers Crossroads schools.

But the big news is a plan for a potential North Central Campus with high, middle and elementary schools which could share one campus, making the total construction cost somewhat lower than building each school on separate sites.

First the school system would need to find between 100 to 120 acres in the right area to locate all three schools, according to the study.

The proposed middle school would be able to serve 1,500 children, but board members said they thought that was too large.

"We may need two new middle schools, since the ideal population for a middle school is 1,200 or less," said Board Chair Larry Tomlinson.

The meeting was a work session to discuss problems and solutions with no final decisions being made yet, Director of Schools Dr. Donna Wright pointed out.

Zone 1 Board Member Wayne McNeese responded, "We can't be having this same discussion in two years. We have to make some tough decisions. With almost 2,000 students in each of three high schools and two of the biggest middle schools in the state, we're at a critical point. These decisions will affect us for years to come."

Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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Tags: 
Donna Wright, Gladeville Elementary, Larry Tomlinson, Mt. Juliet High School, school board, Tuckers Cross Roads, Wayne McNeese, Wilson County Schools
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