Wilson County Schools is going ahead with soliciting bids to rebuild the two campuses destroyed by the March 3 tornado in the hopes that it hastens an end to a dispute with the district’s insurance company.

In a unanimous vote after a more than 2-hour closed session Thursday, the board decided to follow the recommendation of board attorney Mike Jennings. It will seeks bids on rebuilding West Wilson Middle School and Stoner Creek Elementary School on their “existing footprints.”

Last month, Jennings had suggested the board identify and be prepared to hire an outside attorney with expertise in disputes between school districts and insurance companies.

“I still think the potential (for litigation) is there, but perhaps we’re not as far apart” as he had previously indicated, Jennings said.

Jennings said that since he became involved in the issue in mid-December, he, along with WCS Director Donna Wright and board Chairman Larry Tomlinson, have spents hours reviewing documents and meeting with the involved parties.

“There are still some monetary issues that have to be resolve with the insurance company,” he said after the closed meeting. “We’re at the point to bid these two schools so the insurance company knows how much its going to cost.”

The district’s policy requires the insurance company to rebuild or replace the damaged schools, he said. If the district wants to make any additions to the new versions of West Middle or Stoner Creek, it must pay for them. Areas of dispute appear to revolve around building code requirements that didn’t exist when the schools were built but must now be met.

“A lot of work has been done,” Jennings said. “Dr. Wright, the chairman and I talk almost daily, even Saturday and Sunday.”

Wright said it typically takes at least 14 months to build an elementary school and 18-20 months or more to build a middle school. That means it’s likely students won’t be back in those schools until the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.

Back to Traditional

On Wednesday, the district announced it would be returning elementary students to the full-time traditional teaching and learning model on Monday. Students in grades 6-12 remain in the hybrid model. Masks/face coverings are required for all students in grades K-12.

“We will continue to monitor health data on a daily basis provided by our schools and our local health department,” said WCS spokesman Barton Barker in an email. “Our intent is to remain in these models, unless critical data points indicate that a change is necessary. Please keep in mind that if an individual school becomes too difficult to staff or illnesses cause a significant amount of absences, then the district would highly consider placing that individual school on a Remote Teaching and Learning schedule for a minimal two week period. This measure was applied multiple times during the fall semester. The reason was to allow for ample recovery and prevention time.”

Barker also said the district was prepared to move 6-12 students to the traditional model when the data indicate it is safe to do so.

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