To accommodate the addition of new schools, the Williamson County School Board approved a rezoning plan Nov. 18 to take effect in August, which includes moving students from schools that have reached or exceeded their capacity and changing the district’s feeder patterns.
“We want to see what we can do in the context of putting our students first and serving them and still being able to serve them in a way that we can confidently do given the volume of students we have in each location,” WCS Superintendent Jason Golden said.
The new zoning plan includes changes to elementary and middle school zones that will balance out the overcrowding occurring at Spring Station Middle School and Thompson’s Station and Trinity elementary schools.
“This is largely to create a new zone for our middle school that is being built on Henpeck Lane but also to give relief to Spring Station Middle School with some impacts on elementary schools as well,” Golden said.
According to WCS, Spring Station Middle School is already at 106% of its stated building capacity, while Heritage and Thompson’s Station middle schools are at 86% and 80%, respectively.
The opening of the new Central East Middle School, which is slated for August 2020, will move 239 students from Heritage Middle School and 185 students from Thompson’s Station Middle School, while Spring Station Middle School will send 172 students to Heritage and 58 to Thompson’s Station.
The new middle school’s geographical zone will include a portion of Carters Creek Pike, Coleman Road, Kittrell Road, West Harpeth Road, Columbia Pike to I-840 and Lewisburg Pike South.
“On the north side, we have a new school opening, and usually, that’s an exciting time for folks living in the north,” Golden said. “Spring Station is overcrowded and has been overcrowded and continues to grow, and we knew when this school opens that we [will] have to give Spring Station relief when Thompson Station and Heritage lose part of their zones to the new school.”
Among the county’s elementary schools, Trinity is at 104% of the building’s capacity, and Thompson’s Station is at 99%; the zoning plan seeks to move students to relieve those two schools.
With the new Creekside Elementary School building opening in January 2020, the new zoning plan will divert 55 students from College Grove Elementary School and 78 from Trinity Elementary School by August in order to offset the district’s projected growth.
Thompson’s Station Elementary will move 28 of its students—along with any new students that come from the 205 proposed lots at the Southbrooke development south of the Goose Creek Bypass—to Oakview Elementary, per the new zoning plan.
According to school board policy, rising fifth-, eighth-, 11th- and 12th-grade students can request to be grandfathered in and to not be required to be rezoned. The same rule applies to out-of-zone siblings attending the same school; the deadline to submit an out-of-zone request for the 2020-21 school year is set for May 15.
However, students who are approved to be grandfathered in and attend an out-of-zone school will not be able to use WCS buses and will have to provide their own transportation to and from school.
Golden said about 38% of students chose to be grandfathered in and attend an out-of-zone school when WCS rezoned for the opening of Thompson’s Station Middle School in 2018, but he expects the percentage of students wanting to be grandfathered in could be higher with the new rezoning plan.
“My educated guess would be that [with] rezoning from an existing school to another existing school, the percentage would be higher than that 38%,” Golden said.
During deliberations on the zoning plan, Eliot Mitchell, the school board member representing the county’s third district, proposed an amendment to the rezoning plan that would allow rising seventh-graders at Spring Station Middle School to be allowed to stay and not be moved to another school until high school.
“There’s only 24 [students] who are going to Thompson Station, so you can figure that group of two dozen students are going to leave the 800 or so students that they know and go into a brand new school, predominantly with students that they don’t know,” Mitchell said.
The amendment was ultimately voted down by the board in an 8-4 vote. Dan Cash, the board member representing the county’s sixth district, said that filling the new schools and providing relief to overcrowded schools, such as Spring Station, should be a priority.
“Every time zoning comes up, we obviously get a lot of emails, and a lot of parents are concerned for their kids, which we understand, but the bottom line is we’ve got to look at the big picture here,” Cash said. “It’s very important that we fill that school as much as possible. ... At the end of the day, the education of the children is the most important thing. It’s kind of hard for a board to send a superintendent to ask for a school if we’re not willing to vote to backfill it.”
Along with the new zoning plan, the school board has also approved a five-year capital plan that includes efforts to purchase new land and build several new schools in the county.
Allison Nunley, the WCS Planning and Zoning supervisor, said that the school system was already looking for land to build new elementary schools. The new capital plan includes $36 million for the acquisition of new property for future schools.
“We are actively looking for land in the Triune area to build another elementary school, and we’re looking for land in the Spring Hill area for an additional elementary school,” Nunley said.
The capital plan lays out over $336 million in funding for the construction of nine new schools by the 2024-25 school year, including five elementary schools, three middle schools and one high school.
The board of education also approved funding for additions to existing high schools, including $11 million for the construction of classroom additions and cafeteria expansions for Ravenwood High School and Summit High School, scheduled to be completed by fall 2020; and $19.5 million for renovations and additions to Page High School, scheduled to be completed by fall 2024.
The items laid out in the capital plan are not set in stone, and Golden said the county commission would still have to approve funding for the capital plan before construction could begin.
“The county commission requests [a capital plan] of us every year so that they can do some planning,” Golden said. “They emphasize that this is not actually a funding approval by them ... but it’s an acknowledgment that these are our plans.”