District leaders announced a work session planned for Feb. 1 would focus on the creation of a capital outlay plan to accommodate the projected rapid growth in Wilson County.
Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson said the district’s current capital outlay plan would be finished with the completion of a future Mt. Juliet high school on North Green Hill Road.
Wilson County Planning Office director Tom Brashear said last year projects show the county’s population would increase from the 2015 estimated population of 131,060 to at or near 222,490 people by 2040.
Wright discussed future housing developments in Wilson County during Monday’s Wilson County Commission meeting.
“That is something we have to keep on our radar, because with those approvals, we are talking about boys and girls that will be coming with that,” Wright said during the meeting, noting more than 10,000 units are planned throughout Wilson County within the next two to five years.
She elaborated her thoughts Wednesday and said the task the district currently faces is not an easy one, especially since some zoning allows for housing developments in areas previously planned for commercial projects.
“For example, what had been presented as a medical complex development across from Five Oaks is now a new development advertising homes ‘starting at $300,000,’” Wright said.
Johnson said the district typically plans for student population to grow 500-600 students annually, while Wright said if the district used an accepted formula and calculate 1.3 children per unit and apply to units approved throughout Wilson County, the district would face a critical shortage of classrooms in about two years.
“What we know is that we are going to need additional elementary schools and an additional high school, potentially in the northeast quadrant of the county based on what is already being developed on [Highway] 231 North,” Wright said.
Wright said the dilemma comes with presenting what district leaders know to the Wilson County Commission – the district’s funding body – and the potential deliberation on the actual need of additional buildings, cost and how to fund the projects.
She said there could also be debate on how the district defines growth and student density. She noted the district has produced heat maps to create a visualization of where students currently live and how density projects in the future.
“It is imperative that we get ahead of [growth], because it will be far more costly if we wait, and our classrooms are out of ratio with state requirements, and we cannot find teachers willing to take on large classrooms,” Wright said.
Johnson said it would make sense for the district to buy land for future growth now, but there are some obstacles and challenges to overcome with that process.
“I’m not sure how successful we would be at trying to get approval for projects that are two decades down the road. It’s also worth noting that there are inherent risks associated long-range planning,” she said. “If recent history has taught us anything, it’s how quickly growth patterns can change.”