Education committee approves funding for new Nolensville campus design plans
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
Williamson County Schools district can’t build schools fast enough to keep pace with the population boom in Nolensville.
Student population in the county’s northeast section swells as the school district’s leaders work through the county commission approval process to fund design plans and site preparation for the new high school and K-8 configuration in Nolensville.
“Growth is most significant in Spring Station and the northeast quadrant, [including Ravenwood High School],” Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney said.
RHS has been overcrowded for a couple of years. The Sunset elementary and middle school campus is at capacity or approaching capacity.
The new high school and elementary/middle (possibly K-8) configuration in Nolensville would provide much needed relief to these areas.
Although the new high school has been on the 5-Year Capital Outlay Plan for several years with 100 acres of land purchased last year for the future campuses, the first step in the process—design plans— lag behind.
Current projections indicate the Nolensville-based high school is three years from completion.
This week, the County Commission’s Education Committee passed a resolution for an intent-to-fund $7.4 million needed to begin design plans and site preparation for the new high school and K-8 configuration. The amount is only a portion of the $15.4 million 5-Year Capital Outlay Plan that the education committee approved in full.
The plans are approved about a year later than the board's original request last year.
A tight budget climate in the 2012-13 school year forced hard choices on the commission and board regarding capital expenditures.
After being directed by the county commission to “reprioritize” capital needs last fall, the board shaved off costs by eliminating design plans for the new schools, which later contributed to pushing the completion date back.
County Commissioner Judy Herbert, District 3, questioned Looney during the CCEC meeting about the timeline of the schools’ construction.
She asked if the high school could be built first followed by the K-8 school specifically because of current overcrowding at RHS.
“We originally [planned to build the high school first]. We asked for the design money last year. I’m not throwing stones, but we are a year behind. It takes two years to build a high school,” Looney replied.
Typically, elementary and middle school require about one year of construction, while most high schools require two years. Looney said that due to cost effectiveness, the K-8 configuration would most likely be set in motion first.
Some worry that proposed completion forced back to 2016 for the new high school will not provide relief soon enough to currently cramped schools, especially RHS.
“I am seriously concerned about pushing the northeast high school completion date to 2016,” said School Board Member Gary Anderson, District 5, at the board’s Aug. 15 work session.
“Ravenwood High School already has almost 2,000 students and will require more portables on campus.”
Ravenwood already houses several portables, and Looney announced plans for two more to be installed this year.
“I am very concerned about another three years of growth,” Anderson noted at the work session.
“Nolensville, including east Brentwood, is the fastest growing area in the County.” Anderson cited Spring Hill as the second fastest growing community.
“This is my twenty-fourth year on the board, and when I first got on in 1990, less than 400 kids were enrolled in Sunset. Now, we have over 800,” Anderson said.
The building boom, which began after the installation of sanitary sewer more than a decade ago, continues to increase the student population in the Nolensville area, Anderson said.
“I think we need a contingency plan for the placement of ninth and tenth grades, who are waiting for the high school to be built.”
Looney proposed that the elementary/middle configuration would be built first, possibly with a temporary K-10 configuration while the high school sprinted to completion.
“We want to make sure that we have a comprehensive campus that serves all students,” Looney said previously.
Anderson also made his concerns clear during the work session.
“We don’t want current schools to get so crowded that they can’t handle it or make Ravenwood a portable city,” Anderson said.
“The only way to provide relief is to have a place for ninth grade by 2015.”
The county commission budget committee will meet Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 4:30 p.m. in the Conference Room of the Williamson County Administrative Complex to vote on the $15.4 capital outlay resolution. The full commission will consider the matter September 9.
Posted on: 8/27/2013