West Wilson Middle School and Stoner Creek Elementary can be rebuilt in 14 months if work can begin by June, the Wilson County Board of Education was told during a special session Friday afternoon.
Both schools were destroyed during the March 3 tornado that ripped through Mt. Juliet before traveling east toward Lebanon.
“We can get in the building in 14 months if we can get in the ground in June,” WCS Deputy Director Mickey Hall told the board.
In the meantime, students at those two neighboring schools will use split schedules in the 2020-21 school year with West Wilson splitting the school day at Mt. Juliet Middle and Stoner Creek students doing the same at Springdale.
“There’s no way I can fix these schools by July,” Hall told board member Wayne McNeese, who asked if split schedules would be necessary.
Split schedules are to be used for the remainder of this school year, but students and staff haven’t had a chance to go through that process because schools have been closed since the tornado due to that storm, spring break and the COVID-19 pandemic which prompted Gov. Bill Lee to call for all schools to be closed statewide for the remainder of this month.
This special board meeting was closed to the public due to the coronavirus and was livestreamed over the district’s website.
McNeese, whose Zone 1 covers the northwest corner of the county, asked about alternatives, including using the now-under construction Green Hill High School, as an alternative.
“You can’t put elementary students in a high school,” Hall said.
McNeese also inquired about using 54 acres the district owns behind Mt. Juliet High School.
Hall said there was no water or sewer on the 54 acres and lines would have to be run through the Jackson Creek Subdivision. He added insurance wouldn’t pay for building on a new site.
The deputy director said the district is working with its insurance company, Tennessee Risk Management, and that negotiations would take most of April. He said he wants to have a plan by the May board meeting. Hall also said he told the county commission the insurance and FEMA would cover the costs and that the district wouldn’t have to come to the commission for more money.
“The insurance company is driving the train and we’re along for the ride,” board chairman Larry Tomlinson said.
The board voted unanimously, with Chad Karl absent, to use NFA as a liason with insurance company Tennessee Risk Management.
“(NFA) is a company which has a very good history in helping school districts,” schools director Donna Wright said.
The board also voted 5-1, with McNeese voting against, to retain Mt. Juliet-based KBJM Architects as the design team, which the district has used for its last several construction projects. It also voted 5-1, with McNeese also voting no, to declare the work as an emergency.
“They’ve been instrumental in building schools for us,” Hall said of KBJM. “They know the codes.”
Hall said the models for recent new schools are already in place. They have to be blend in with what’s there. Building on the old site would take advantage of the infrastructure already there.
There is the matter of codes, which will raise the price.
“There’s a different set of codes the city of Mt. Juliet has adopted recently which did not exist in 1975 (when West Wilson, then known as Mt. Juliet Junior High, was built),” Hall said. “There were a few codes (when Stoner Creek was built).”
Codes now require roofs to be constructed from concrete which will require more steel, which will raise the cost. Walls also have to be stronger.
“What’s going into the building is what’s in there now,” Hall said. “The only change is the codes.
“Wind standards are very high now… to prevent what has happened.”
Hall began the meeting by recounting what happened during the early-morning hours of March 3. He said everything salvageable had been removed from the buildings and that teachers had also retrieved their belongings. Items in students’ lockers which were not damaged or condemned had been moved to Mt. Juliet Middle.
Wright said 12 teachers lost their homes and six were injured.
Board members present included McNeese, Tomlinson, Bill Robinson, Mike Gwaltney, Linda Armistead and Kimberly McGee.