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guestview: Tom Rosseel
Working together to help solve overcrowding in elementary schools

The Citizens of Farragut are once again at an important crossroads in deciding how to address the problem of overcrowded schools and to ensure the best education for our children.

We, as a Town, can stand back and wait for Knox County to find a solution to this problem, which we may or may not like, or the Town of Farragut can step up and take a leadership position in support of education. I believe that we must be part of the solution rather than passive and dissatisfied observers.

On Thursday, February 14th, I proposed that the Board of Mayor and Alderman take the critical first step by considering the purchase of 16.8 acres on McFee Road with the intent to offer a portion of it to the county for the purpose of building a new elementary school. This offer will come with strings attached — as it should, and it will be fully discussed before a final Board vote.

It’s clear that elementary schools in the southwest sector of the county, but especially Farragut Primary, Intermediate, and Middle schools, are bursting at the seams with students and, as such, our community and the surrounding county residents are in desperate need of an additional neighborhood elementary school. Without a new school, the likely alternatives are to expand existing schools, such as Farragut Primary and Blue Grass, beyond their capacity in order to accommodate the ever growing population of children or to rezone students all across the county.

The problem with expansion is that the infrastructure, including the gyms and cafeterias, is inadequate to handle more students. Cascade rezoning of children across the entire county, which occurred with building the new Hardin Valley High School — a beautiful school, but one which was built too far from where students live in an attempt to alleviate overcrowding at Farragut High School — is a choice everyone wishes to avoid. Rezoning away from neighborhood high schools has been and will continue to be difficult for teens and their parents, but rezoning away from neighborhood elementary schools will be much more traumatic for the very youngest school children and their families.

Since this land is adjacent to the Town’s newest park, which is under development, as part of the donation, the Town would enter into an agreement with the Knox County Board of Education to share its park facilities. The park, however, would remain open, and must remain open by federal law, to all who wish to use it. In exchange, the school board would allow the Town to use the new school’s gymnasium and cafeteria for Town activities under a determined schedule in the evenings, weekends, and summers.

The offer of land to the county would be similar to the wise decision the Town made in 1995 when it donated land to Knox County to build the library on Campbell Station Road. We don’t manage the library nor do we manage the schools but both institutions have a critical impact on the quality of life in the Town. If the County does not accept or act on our offer within a fixed period, for example five years, the land would revert to the Town for a community use such as a new park.

Try to imagine driving to Cedar Bluff to use a public library rather than the Farragut Branch located between the Town’s Campbell Station Road Park and Farragut Primary School. Now picture a future elementary school nestled next to a beautiful McFee Road park with a playground, fields, walking trails, and an amphitheater that could be used as an outdoor classroom.

This clearly would be a win-win for the families in our community and the entire county by allowing children to attend neighborhood schools that are not overcrowded. And even those without school-age children or grandchildren would benefit from the higher property values that accrue to family-friendly communities with neighborhood schools.

To reach this goal, the Town, the Board of Education, and County government must set aside differences and work together to solve this problem. It may seem obvious that the Town and the County should work together to solve community problems, but it hasn’t happened often enough.

Following separate and individual discussions with our fifth District Commissioners, Craig Leuthold and Mike Hammond, and Board of Education members, Thomas Deakins and Karen Carson, all have expressed their support of our purchase and donation, under reasonable conditions, for the purpose of building a new elementary school. Although there are details yet to be worked out, I believe that we can make this school a reality. It is an investment in the education of our children, the future of the Town, and the future of the county. We can’t afford not to make it!

Proposed Conditions on the Town of Farragut’s Offer of Land to the County:

In exchange for the Town donating sufficient land to Knox County to build an elementary school on McFee Road, the following conditions must be met through Deed Restrictions on the property.

1. If Knox County does not proceed with building — authorize and begin construction — an elementary school on the land within a fixed period of time (five years), the land would revert to the Town without conditions.

2. The site plan and building must comply with Town of Farragut regulations. This will result in a review and approval by the Town’s Municipal Planning Commission and inspections by the Town’s building codes staff.

3. At no cost, the Town of Farragut would have:

• Scheduled use of the school gymnasium in the evenings, weekends, and summers and which would not conflict with school functions.

• Scheduled use of the school cafeteria for special events (e.g., once a month) and which would not conflict with school functions.

4. At no cost, Knox County Schools would have use of Town’s McFee Road Park but its use would not conflict with scheduled Town functions. The park would remain open to all who wish to use it. Possible uses include:

• Park playground and fields during school hours

• Park parking areas for scheduled large school events

• Park walk trail for school physical education classes

• Park picnic shelters for scheduled school events

• The future amphitheatre for classroom and other special events

5. Outside grounds maintenance would be performed by the Town’s Public Works Department.

This would be similar to the agreement with Knox County for the Farragut Branch Library on Campbell Station Road.


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