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Squires question West Wilson schools as first priority
Aug 09, 2004 12:00 am
A school building plan recently unveiled by local school officials was identified as "a step in the right direction" by county lawmakers Wednesday, though some questioned plans to first focus on growth-related needs in the western end of the county.
Earlier this week, Director of Schools Dr. Jim Duncan said new schools will be needed in virtually every corner of the county over the next two decades. At his recommendation, school board members voted to present two "critical action issues" – the need for a new Mt. Juliet High School and an addition to Wilson Central High School – to the Wilson County Education Committee in the coming weeks.
The plan also calls for improvements and new construction at Lebanon and Watertown high schools and a host of other middle and elementary schools during the next 20 years, though those plans are not slated for consideration in any particular order.
Duncan noted a new "North Central" high school in the Highway 109 area will also be needed in the future because of residential growth in the area. But those plans for such a school were the most distant, he said.
District 20 County Commissioner and Education Committee member Annette Stafford said she believes Lebanon and Watertown schools should receive more immediate attention.
"The North Central … along with the addition on Wilson Central should be the farthest two down the road," Stafford said. "First of all, I would like to see them try to do something for the east end of the county. I'm not trying to make this an east-west thing, but I would love to see Watertown be put at the top of the list and then Lebanon High School second on the list."
Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman, a member of the county's financial management committee, said he believes needs at LHS and WHS should be addressed along with needs in Mt. Juliet.
"I think they ought to have a plan to include the growth in Mt. Juliet … and also the same plan for the old Lebanon High School and Watertown High School. They ought to work together there," Dedman said. "It ain't going to be long before all of the land in West Wilson is going to have houses setting on it, then you're growth is going to move east into Lebanon and up through Watertown.
"So, you've got to look at the big picture instead of just one particular area."
Regardless of the order in which the projects are undertaken, each official contacted by The Lebanon Democrat Wednesday indicated it may be possible to address each element in the building plan within the 15- to 20-year timeframe.
They also noted funding would undoubtedly be the key issue in completing the building schedule.
"Personally, I have a lot of faith in Dr. Duncan," District 1 Commissioner and Education Committee member Wendell Marlowe commented. "He is an individual that doesn't set unreasonable goals … If he feels like it can be done, and if the funding is available – plans are one thing, but the funding is going to be another – then, it can be done. But, funding has always been the stumbling block for the Wilson County school system."
"I think this could work," Stafford added. "I just wish that the past superintendent would have had a vision of this. If they would have had a vision of this, then we would have been that much farther ahead, rather than trying to play catch up now."
Dedman, who also identified funding as the key factor behind completing the building program, said school officials have taken a step in the right direction by compiling the data regarding needs at various county schools.
"That's the main issue," he said, adding the building plan would be a useful tool in supplying county squires with information regarding the school system's needs. " … The more you can inform the County Commission and the public about what your needs are down the road, the more time you have to sell it to them and convince them."
District 14 Commissioner and Wilson County Financial Management Committee Chairman Rusty Thompson declined to comment on the building plan for this story, noting he has yet to review the plan's details.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.