As the new school year approaches, both Lebanon and Wilson County schools are ready to make the upcoming year successful for students, parents, teachers and staff.
New additions were added to schools in both districts with a focus on security measures and renovations.
Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson said work on three new secure entrances at Castle Heights Elementary School, Coles Ferry Elementary School and Walter J. Baird Middle School are nearly finished, which will mean that all LSSD schools will have a secured main entrance.
A new field house equipped with restrooms and a concession stand is also nearly built at Walter J. Baird’s football field.
New energy-efficient windows were also installed during the summer at both Byars Dowdy Elementary School and Sam Houston Elementary School, and LSSD continues to make plans to build a new school.
Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson said schools wrapped up a large building program last spring that included renovations and expansions to six different schools, along with the construction of a new central office, and there are now no portable classrooms at any Wilson County schools.
Some of those building projects include an auditorium expansion at Mt. Juliet Middle; renovations to the cafeteria and band room at Tucker’s Crossroads; renovations to the old gym at Gladeville Elementary; the building of a common area, offices and a new cafeteria and gym at Watertown elementary; Southside Elementary will get a new entrance, restrooms, gym and administrate entrance, while the old gym will be converted to classrooms; construction has begun on a new central office, and Gladeville Middle is under construction.
Staffing changes also took place during the summer with new teachers in both districts.
As of June 29, Wilson County Schools processed 111 applications for certified staff, but the numbers rose in the past month. At that time, there were 21 open certified positions.
Several new principals were hired with Wendell Marlowe named as the new principal at Southside Elementary School; Kevin Dawson as the new principal at West Wilson Middle School; Michael Hickman as the new principal at Mt. Juliet Middle School; Amanda Smith as the new principal oat Stoner Creek Elementary School; and Leigh Anne Rainey as the new principal at Mt. Juliet High School.
Traci Sparkman and Laurie Offutt will be the new principals at Walter J. Baird Middle School and Winfree Bryant Middle School, respectively, and 22 new teachers were hired at LSSD.
Safety is a priority of both districts, with measures in place to better train teachers and monitor student activities.
According to Johnson, safety director Steve Spencer partnered with the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office and school resource officers to conduct security assessments at of all Wilson County schools, where they addressed needed updates.
Last week, Spencer also held a one-day seminar for new administrators to review all safety plans and drills, while a representative from the Department of Homeland Security gave a presentation at the meeting on active-shooter incidents.
The actions were in conjunction with a new program initiated by the sheriff’s office last spring that allows parents to report suspicious activity or threats directly to law enforcement.
Wilson County Schools’ new central office also has a new emergency operations center, where Spencer can monitor live feeds from security cameras from every school. The center also has direct radio communication with emergency responders, which gives the school system the ability to monitor and assist in lockdown procedures in the event of an active-shooter incident. All Wilson County schools have one SRO in every elementary and middle school and two SROs in every high school.
According to Benson, LSSD also partnered with law enforcement to conduct school safety assessments for each school, and it also has an SRO in every school.
LSSD also has a new emphasis on school bus safety, including working with students, bus drivers, principals and parents to ensure a safe and positive environment on busses.
Several new programs are in place to expand the role and experience of students in both districts, along with easier access to information about school events and announcements.
Lebanon schools will offer new Tennessee science standards this year and expanded its “Be Kind LSSD” campaign with the addition of kindness cadets in every school to give leadership opportunities for students to promote kindness in schools and the community at large.
Wilson County Schools will debut new websites for all schools Monday. According to Johnson, the new sites will be much easier to navigate, especially for parents who have students in different schools.
Wilson County high school students in television production programs will produce content this year for the new Public, Educational and Government access channel that was recently launched, which will have specialized programming on things happening in each school, along with live sports coverage.