Wilson County faces overcrowding, shortage of classrooms

(Photo: WKRN)

WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – It is the start of the new school year, and a lot of Middle Tennessee school districts are working through the kinks.

In Wilson County, the issue is a shortage of classrooms. With school hallways busting at the seams, the Wilson County School District is looking for a solution to their crowded classrooms inside three of their high schools.

“As long as everyone is moving, it works well so we just keep them moving.”

(Photo: WKRN)

Mt. Juliet principal Mel Brown says close to 80 teachers are floating from classroom to classroom teaching students.

“We’ve got closet space we are using, storage areas we are using,” said Brown.

According to the district, the problem is not going to get better.

Both Mt. Juliet and Wilson Central high schools were built for 2000 students. Right now, Mt. Juliet has 2200 and Wilson Central 1950, but the district predicts both will add 400 students in the next two years.

The district’s fix comes with a price.

“110 million is obviously giving people a lot of heartburn but, you know, costs are rising,” said District Spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson.

Last year, Wilson county bought 60 acres of land for $4.2 million in Mt. Juliet to build a new high school.

(Photo: WKRN)

“Even if we started today, this school would not be a reality until 2020,” Johnson told News 2.

But the proposal is concerning to many county leaders like District 11 Commissioner John Gentry.

“We want a new school. We may or may not need 110 million dollars,” Gentry said.

Gentry says raising taxes is not easy especially while they pay off the bonds for other schools. “I think we’ve almost reached our limit as far as borrowing unless we do raise taxes and we raised them last year,” said Gentry.

He told News 2 the proposed property raises some red flags too.

“I thought the land was not a suitable land area for the new school,” Gentry said.

He knows eventually the county will have to build a new one but the timing has to be right.

“I don’t doubt that we have more and more students every year so we will eventually need a new high school,” he added.

Until then, Brown will continue to keep traffic moving throughout the halls and make the best of the situation.

The last two high schools built cost $85 million combined, but the district says construction costs are much more expensive now than five years ago.