BY LANDON WOODROOF
Both an educational problem and its solution were OK’d by the Planning Commission at its Tuesday night meeting.
With one ordinance, the commission approved two more portable classrooms for overcrowded Kenrose Elementary School, while with another, the commission recommended the rezoning of land on Split Log Road to allow for a new elementary school to be built there. That new elementary school is expected to open in the fall of 2018 and considerably relieve Kenrose’s congestion.
The two ordinances are like a before and after, and the city recognized that. In fact, one of the conditions that the city insisted upon for approval of the portables at Kenrose is that those portables, as well as four preexisting ones at the school, must be removed within 60 days of the opening of the elementary school on Split Log Road.
The school district seems to be perfectly fine with idea.
“I don’t like them any more than this body likes them,” Kevin Fortney, the director of facilities for Williamson County Schools, said about portables, called “learning cottages” on site plans.
One of the portables will be 1,008 square feet and will hold 25 students. The other will be an 1,848-square-foot double classroom.
According to the school district’s “5-Year Projection Study” of school capacity, in the first month of the current school year Kenrose Elementary had 972 students, putting it at 107 percent of capacity. Next year it is projected to be at 117 percent capacity.
Kenrose is far from the only public school in Williamson County to suffer from overcrowding, though.
“You’ll notice on this sheet that there’s a lot of red,” Williamson County Schools Maintenance Director Mark Samuels said in reference to the projection study. “That’s an overcapacity school.”
Of the 45 schools in the county system, 15 are currently overcapacity. Samuels said he and his crew were set to install 22 portables this summer at WCS schools.
Brentwood High School, Brentwood Middle School, Ravenwood High School and Scales Elementary School are the schools in Brentwood besides Kenrose that are overcrowded. Scales’ 111 percent capacity rate is actually worse than Kenrose’s.
As far as portables in Brentwood are concerned, Lipscomb Elementary, Brentwood Middle and Brentwood High currently have two, Kenrose Elementary and Ravenwood High currently have four and Scales Elementary has three, although one is a double classroom, Samuels said.
The Williamson County Commission approved funds for an expansion project at Scales during a meeting in March. Fortney said he hoped to get started on that project this summer. A decision on funding for $17 million of new construction at Brentwood High and Brentwood Middle is scheduled to be taken up by the County Commission in May.
Brentwood resident Jason Grant spoke out in favor of the new Kenrose Elementary portables at the Planning Commission meeting. He said he has kids at Kenrose and sees the portables as a necessary evil.
“I hate portables as a parent,” he said. “For security reasons, for the safety of our kids, for the aesthetics, for a variety of reasons, but at the same time we need them.”
Planning Commissioner Jack Fletcher expressed his displeasure at the portables.
“I usually complain about all the portables and things so I don’t want to miss an opportunity for that,” he said amiably.
Later, he encouraged Brentwood residents to contact their county commissioners about the overcrowding issue.
“People have got to let our county commissioners know its time,” he said. “We’ve got to get rid of the portables and make room for the growth and deal with it.”
On a positive note, Samuels said that the district would actually be removing three portables from Ravenwood High School this summer. The addition of an extra class at Nolensville High School next year is expected to alleviate some of Ravenwood’s overcrowding.
Planning Commissioner Ken Travis said he would like it if the commission were notified when portables were going to be removed from schools.
“We always know when they’re coming in, it’d be nice to know when they’re going out as well,” he said.
Jeff Dobson, Brentwood’s director of the Planning & Codes Department, said he would make sure to notify the commission in the future when that happened.
The ordinance rezoning 83.5 acres of land along Split Log Road from R-2 (Suburban Residential) to SI-2 (Service Institution Educational) to make way for the new school had been approved on first reading by the Board of Commissioners at its March 13 meeting.
A public hearing is scheduled for it on April 10, while the City Commission will consider it for a second and final time at its April 24 meeting.