The Rutherford County Schools board approved three rezoning proposals – one each for elementary schools, middle schools and high schools — at a special called meeting Nov. 14.
The vote for the elementary school rezoning proposal was 6-1, with Zone 2 board member Coy Young the “no” vote. The middle school and high school proposals were each approved 5-2, with Young and Zone 7 board member Frances Rosales voting “no” on each proposal.
Before the middle and high school votes, Rosales told the board about multiple subdivisions that are either planned or under construction.
“Without the firm commitment of funding new building projects, without a new middle school and new high school and possibly additions, it is not the time to consider rezoning the middle school and high school boundary lines,” she said.
She added that the district might have to rezone middle and high schools in 2028-2029 and “adding portables in overcrowded schools. I’m not in favor of shuffling kids around the county for the sake of filling open seats.”
The elementary rezoning will take place for the 2024-2025 school year and approximately 1,600 students will be rezoned. A new elementary school, which would serve upwards of 1,000 students, would also need to be constructed on the newly purchased “Batey” property.
The remainder of the elementary school boundaries will be affected during the 2025-2026 school year, after the new school opens.
The middle school proposal would take effect during the 2026-2027 school year and would also require a school to be built on the Batey property. The high school rezoning would take place during the 2025-2026 school year.
Before the middle school rezoning goes into effect, an evaluation of new enrollment trends and attendance zones will occur at least nine months before the implementation.
Prior to the high school rezoning, evaluation of enrollment trends and/or any new additional facilities funded by the Rutherford County Commission will occur at least nine months before the implementation.
“Rezoning is not going to get us out of rezoning,” Young said. “We have got to get focused on building schools. We spent more time on rezoning maps than we did looking at our five-year budget. That’s unacceptable.”
After the vote, Zone 1 board member Tammy Sharp, who represents La Vergne, spoke about the situation.
“For the elementary, it’s the only thing that affects my area,” she said. “We want to get where everyone is kind of moving into John Coleman. We want to get Roy Waldron into one building and hopefully that will make some room for Stewarts Creek when that comes through.
“We can’t kick the can down the road anymore. It is the county commissioners’ job to do the funding, but (the study) is something we have done for a long time, and we’ve spent a ton of money on (the study and proposals).”
She added that more than 10,000 permits have been issued for developers to begin building along Waldron Road in La Vergne.
As Rutherford County experiences unprecedented growth, certain areas are expanding at a faster rate, placing immense pressure on our school infrastructure,” Rosales wrote in an email to a Main Street Media reporter after the meeting. “Over the past two decades, this growth trend shows no signs of slowing down. We must confront this challenge head-on, prioritizing long-term solutions over temporary fixes that continue to put a band aid solution over the problem that is not going away any time soon.
In 2022, the district contracted with RSP and Associates for a school enrollment and capacity analysis to assist the district in anticipating and handling student growth “year after year,” according to RCS Director Dr. James Sullivan. It also studied the county’s population and birth rate trends within the county.
In an email to a Main Street Media reporter after the meeting, Young wrote,” My concern with the BOE vote tonight is that we are putting the cart before the horse. The proposal for rezoning tonight was based on counting seats we currently do not have and where growth is projected for the 2025-26 school year. I never recall a time that the BOE voted on a rezoning plan this far in advance, causing unnecessary anxiety for students and parents.
“Our focus as the BOE should be on developing a solid plan that will eliminate rezoning for a time frame of at least 4-5 years, not a plan that will create additional rezoning every 1-2 years.”
Young said in the email that the district needs to secure land now for building a high school in the Smyrna and La Vergne area, and secure funding to build a middle school to relieve Blackman and Stewart Creek middle schools.
Approximately 60 county residents were in attendance at the meeting. Of them people voiced their opposition during the public comment period of the meeting.
County resident Charlie Eblen said at the meeting that “I am extremely disappointed in the school board. They are elected officials by the residents in this community and they didn’t listen to the constituents. When it comes time to vote for, I think four are coming up for re-election next year, we’ll go to the polls, and we’ll get people who want to listen to us.”