You don't have to talk with me long about WCS before growth comes up. I'll make sure to bring it up. It’s one of our most critical issues. We have serious work to do to make sure WCS manages the impact of growth. If we’re not successful, we will start seeing a deterioration of the high quality education we want for the benefit of our students, their families and our community.
Mayor Anderson says our county’s population will double in the next fifteen years. Think about that a moment. We’re now a community of about 200,000. Imagine growing from 200,000 to 400,000 in just fifteen years. Now, think of this: with the opening of the Nolensville schools soon, we’ll have 52 public schools serving a population of 200,000. (That includes the eight schools in the Franklin Special School District.) Simple math would show us that we will need to build 52 more schools to serve the additional 200,000 people who will move to Williamson County in the next fifteen years.
Are we going to build 52 more schools in the next fifteen years? Of course, not. So, what happens? At this rate, we won’t have physical room for many of our students. Are we going to put even more students in portable trailers? What about teacher space? In some schools, they’re already using storage rooms for teachers. And, what about yet more teachers on portable carts with no stationary classroom? At Franklin High alone, there are already over 20 teachers “on carts”.
And, what about our quest for even better schools? Will we lose sight of that as we scramble to manage growth?
Am I over-reacting? I guess the Mayor could miss his growth projections, but I’ve known him many years, and never known him to miss his projections by far. Just assume for a moment that he’s, well, half right. Then, by simple math, we still have 26 schools to build in the next fifteen years. We’ve not built that many schools in the thirty years my family and I have lived here!
This is the point where I would like to present a solution to our growth issues. But, honestly, I don’t have the ultimate solution. What I can say is that, folks, we have facts to face, and serious work to do. It’s going to take the full force of the community to come up with big picture and meaningful solutions. And, we’re going to need help from the outside. That’s one of the reasons I support the Mayor and Superintendent’s proposal to engage growth consultants. I also will support community activities and engagement initiatives that seek to tackle growth issues.
Yes, I’m concerned, very concerned. But, we can find answers if we have a can-do attitude and tackle the challenges as a community working together. We don’t have to all be in agreement on the proper path forward, but we should all agree that we’ve got to be serious about getting busy coming up with solutions. Just as a community working together has helped us become the proud and admired county we are, that same approach can help us manage the growth challenges ahead.
Growth is a challenge for all of us, including those who don't have children and grandchildren in our schools. If growth negatively impacts the quality of our schools, we all suffer.