Williamson County is growing, but buildings can’t always grow with it, a fact presenting a challenge for Renaissance High School.
The Williamson County School Board of Education met Thursday evening for a work session and began by hearing an update from Brian Bass, principal of Renaissance High School, who explained the demand at the school is exceeding its capacity.
Renaissance High is different than other WCS high schools in that it takes applications from students throughout the entire county rather than pulling from a particular zone. Bass explained the school focuses on project-based learning, particularly in three areas: apps, arts and audio.
“At Renaissance, the project is the main course, not the dessert,” he said. “A lot of our students [are] such smart kids, but they’re motivated by different things, so their projects provide a purpose … to want to learn a curriculum and tie it back to their real world or tie it back to their interests.”
Bass said the school was originally zoned for 150 students, and this year, enrollment totaled 182. He said 125 freshmen applied to the school in December alone, and only 48 were accepted.
The school’s greatest strength — and its greatest challenge — is its small size, Bass said.
“What’s happening, because the county is growing, the percentage of WCS that we can serve is decreasing while the percentage of students who are looking for this smaller environment and have the unique social emotional needs that would thrive in a smaller place is increasing,” he said.
Board chairman Gary Anderson encouraged his fellow members to visit the school to see the students work.
“If you haven’t had a chance to go by there, it is absolutely enjoyable to watch those students and watch those teachers work with those kids,” he said. “I’ve been there two or three times now, and I’ve brought other people to go see how impressive it is.”
Mark Samuels, assistant superintendent for operations, also gave an update to the board Thursday on the district’s ongoing and upcoming capital projects, beginning with the newly named Legacy Middle School, on track to wrap up in August despite recent rainy conditions.
As of Jan. 24, the Independence High School addition is complete. Phase two renovations for Page Middle and Page High are set for completion in March and April of next year, respectively. Additionally, Franklin High School athletic building renovations will finish in September this year.
A bid for Brentwood High School renovations will open in May of this year, plus a bid for the building of an auditorium at Sunset Middle School later this month.
The board then discussed a long list of budget amendments to be voted on at its next couple meetings. First, the district once again received money from the state’s Safe Schools Grant amounting to more than $500,000, and it is also a subrecipient of the Governor’s Give Grant to Columbia State Community College and will receive just over $840,000 for a mobile cybersecurity unit in its career and technical education (CTE) program.
The district also received a private grant of $5,000 from Batelle Education to go towards STEM education.
Next month, WCS will request over $6 million from the Williamson County Commission to fund the items budgeted for this year within the district’s five-year plan, and it will ask for an additional $18 million as startup money for an elementary school on the eastern side of the county.
The school board will convene for its full meeting 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17 at the Williamson County Administrative Complex.