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No relief in sight for elementary school overcrowding

Even though the Knox County Schools superintendent and local School Board officials agree that West Knox County needs another elementary school, relief is not necessarily in sight.

For the time being, principals are jerry-rigging classroom space in order to squeeze in new students and portable classrooms are high on the wish list.

At Farragut Intermediate School, two classes met in neighboring Farragut Middle School this year, while five portable classrooms housed the art lab, a science lab and seven classrooms. The school has requested a sixth portable to help with the overflow, assistant principal Kay Wellons said.

A.L. Lotts Elementary School has three portables, and a fourth is on its way.

Farragut Primary School has given up the music room because of overcrowding, and presently has one portable that houses two classes, and another portable is being installed.

“Dr. Lindsey proposed and the School Board accepted in their capital plan that the proposal was to begin design and construction of a new elementary school in the west part of the county in F-Y-0-seven. That is currently not in the capital plan the county mayor has put up and sent to County Commission,” said Russ Oaks, spokesman for Knox County Schools System.

“Unless it is rolled into the mayor’s proposal and County Commission approves, there is no money for it … It is still in the School Board’s capital request. It can remain in the request, but it has no funding until the commission acts on it,” he added.

Chuck James, 6th District Board of Education representative, said that even though the county mayor’s proposed budget doesn’t include funding for the new school, the mayor is not opposed to it, and a new elementary school in southwest Knox County is still “definitely” in the Board of Education’s budget. James estimated in February that within five years “we’ll be eight hundred to one thousand seats short in elementary schools in West Knox County.”

The mayor’s proposed budget included $600,000 for bringing in an outside group to study school facilities. James said that was not an indication that the new school is being nixed, but simply a prudent way to plan ahead.

“His study I think he’s proposing, is to see what shape our buildings are in. It’s not necessarily about the new elementary school. I think the proposal he had is to do a study on our buildings. He just gives the School Board money every year. We just spend that money as we see fit,” he said.

Karen Carson, 5th District Board of Education representative, said she doesn’t see the need for a study on overcrowding in West Knox County and said the study will apparently delay the decision to build the school for as long as a year.

“I’m not opposed to having an outside group look at the overall needs of the county,” she said, “but I think we already have enough data to demonstrate the need for a new elementary school in West Knox County.

“The mayor’s proposal is just that,” Carson added. “The County Commission will have to bring it up. Nothing is final. It’s all in the discussion stage at this point.

“We’ll have to see how it plays out. The difficulty for me is having the Board of Education debate the captial needs and come up with what their best proposal is and having the mayor come up with something entirely different. It disregards the intentions of the people who are elected to represent the schools’ needs.”

Earlier this year, town of Farragut Alderman Tom Rosseel suggested the town donate land on McFee Road to the school system for a new elementary school. But Farragut Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III said the 26 acres the town bought 13 years ago for a park needs to be used for a park. He said a design has been completed and some residents have built houses in the area because of the promised park.

Ford said Knox County receives $14.5 million a year from the town of Farragut through property, sales and Wheel Tax.

“I would suggest there’s opportunity to use revenues coming from this end of the county to buy land for a school,” he said.


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