After a 45-minute discussion in a work session Thursday including a debate over the pros and cons of rezoning neighborhoods, the Williamson County Schools Board of Education decided to allow certain students to be grandfathered into their current schools regardless of the new zoning plan at its meeting Monday.
Last week, the school board met to review the new zoning plan required to include the new middle school on Henpeck Lane and to provide relief to the overcrowded Spring Station Middle School. Some board members raised concerns about the many families who would be relocated to a different school, while some feared grandfathering certain students into their current schools would not allow for the adequate filling of the new middle school and relief of Spring Station. The former concern won out.
The new zoning parameters are as follows: Creekside Elementary absorbs 55 students from College Grove Elementary and 78 students from Trinity Elementary; a portion of the Thompson’s Station Elementary zone north of Interstate 840 will be rezoned to Oak View Elementary; most students zoned for Heritage Middle and Thompson’s Station Middle north of I-840 will go to the new middle school on Henpeck Lane; and Heritage Middle and Thompson’s Station Middle will take 172 and 58 students, respectively, from Spring Station Middle.
The board decided to allow rising fifth- and eighth-grade students with their siblings to remain at their current school if they wish.
District 3 Board Member Eliot Mitchell proposed rising seventh-graders zoned out of Spring Station should also have the opportunity to be grandfathered in, as this represents a small group of 81 students. This idea received support from a handful of board members, but opposition raised concern about not opening up this option to all seventh-graders and about the principle of policymakers suspending their own policies, not wanting to start a trend.
After much discussion, this proposed amendment failed 4-8, and the original zoning plan passed 11-1.
With this new plan, the feeder patterns for some schools have also shifted: Oak View Elementary and Winstead Elementary students will attend the new middle school on Henpeck Lane; Allendale Elementary will split almost evenly between Heritage Middle and Spring Station Middle; Heritage Middle will feed mostly into Independence High, with 18% going to Summit High; and Thompson’s Station Middle will be weighted more heavily towards Summit High, with 20% going to Independence.
Another item on the agenda approved by the board was the implementation of incentives for substitute teachers. WCS Superintendent Jason Golden explained though the district has plenty of subs on call, the fill rate for empty slots sits around 80%. The incentive passed Monday night would provide an extra $100 to subs who teach seven days in a given pay period of two weeks and an extra $200 to those who work 50 days or more in a semester.
“We’re really looking to approach this shortage for substitute teachers in more ways than one,” Golden said, explaining this is just one of those ways.
While this item passed unanimously, several board members expressed their desire to see a base pay bump for subs in the future.
The board also heard from a couple students at the meeting, one of whom was Michael Brown, Franklin High School’s student body president. Brown explained the presidents from all the high schools in the district have had regular meetings with Golden to discuss the future of the schools and have shadowed other school presidents throughout the semester to learn how to better lead their peers.
In the name of working to better the district, Brown brought a proposal to the board on behalf of all the student body presidents.
“Our main goal is to create a brighter future for tomorrow by working with each other, not against each other,” he said. “One way we see ourselves working together in the future and propose for the school board to contemplate is the potential of having a nonvoting student seat on the school board to give the student body a voice and representation on topics that affect us each and every day.”
Avery Smith, a student at Page High School, also notified the board of the “green week” planned for her school, a week focused on education, behavioral challenges and projects concerning the protection of the environment. During that week, the school is piloting the use of compostable trays and JUST Water, using a compost pick-up service based in Nashville.
“Our hope is to extend it to a year-long endeavor,” she said. “When we are looking at long-term implementation, that price (of $300 to $500 per week) is not feasible.”
Smith proposed the board, in future capital planning, consider building a compost facility in Franklin to make environmental efforts more affordable year-round and districtwide.
Finally, the board also recognized Crockett Elementary School at the meeting for its new title as a National Blue Ribbon School.
The school board does not meet in December due to the holidays and is scheduled to meet again Monday, Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Williamson County Administrative Complex.