November 10, 2016

The Tennessean
by Melanie Balakit

Williamson County Schools will need nearly $340 million  for new school construction, according to its proposed five-year capital plan.

As school enrollment rises — about 10,000 more students are expected over the next five years — so does the district’s need for new schools.

Eight new elementary schools, three new middle schools and one new high school are listed on the 2016-22 plan.

A replacement building for Brentwood Middle School, about 615 acres for schools and 30 acres for central office also are listed under school building construction.

Major renovations and additions in the district total $81.59 million, according to the plan.

Renovations are slated for Franklin High School, Brentwood High School, Fairview Middle School, Page Middle School and Page High School.

Additions are slated for Scales Elementary, College Grove Elementary, Independence High and Summit High. Additionally, the plan shows funding for the final phase of auditoriums at Grassland Middle and Summit Middle.

Preliminary plans for renovations at Franklin High and Brentwood High have already been drafted.

A $9 million renovation plan at Franklin High will add classroom space, parking space, upgraded athletic facilities and acquisition of a vacant community college building. Brentwood High’s $17 million renovation plan adds classroom space, parking space, upgraded athletic facilities and a multistory STEM building.

The proposed plan, including transportation needs, totals nearly $429 million.

Another proposed capital plan totals nearly $435 million   because of additional land requested for central office.

10-year plan

The district has been working on long-range planning. A draft 10-year school plan shows a need for 615 acres to build 17 schools.

In light of rising land costs in the county, Williamson County Director of Schools Mike Looney has proposed purchasing all needed land within one year to save money. The proposal differs from the district’s current approach of purchasing land when needed.

Land acquisition is estimated at $55.8 million, which includes interest.

Looney estimates an additional $10.9 million if the district buys land when needed and an additional $7.39 million if the district buys needed land within two years.

“We are saving taxpayers $7 (million) to $10 million, which is about the same price that we pay full package for a high school,” he said.

“I firmly believe instead of being reactive to development, we can drive development,” Looney said at a school board work session Thursday. “Generally the development starts and then find property for the school at twice the price. We could buy the property and let development come up around the school.”

School board members raised concerns over the feasibility of purchasing all land within one year, as well as purchasing land that the district may not need in the future.

Acquiring all needed land within one year probably would require additional full-time employees, Looney said. The district can sell land if it no longer needs it, he said.