Wilson schools crave space - WSMV News 4

Wilson schools crave space

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Wilson County schools are bursting at the seams.

At West Elementary in Mt. Juliet, first graders sit knee-to-knee during reading time. There are 40 of them in one small classroom. Two teachers share the room because the school doesn't have enough classrooms for every teacher to have their own room.

"It's not the ideal learning environment," said Mike Davis, the director of Wilson County schools.

West Elementary is one of a number of schools in Wilson County where teachers are making due as best they can until they get more space.

Toni Crips teaches speech and language therapy in a room that's about 11 by 15 feet.

"It's a library closet," Crips said. She has been moved three times, each time to a smaller space, as the school population keeps expanding.

Next door, the English as a Second Language teacher holds class in a book storage area.

The art teacher doesn't have a room of his own, so he pushes his cart from room to room, using whatever space is open.

"Kindergarten, first grade, second grade, are in the cafeteria," said Eric Ghianni. He said most of his teaching materials are in his home because he has no permanent classroom.

The challenge in Wilson County is growth. New families with new students move to the county every day. Five years ago, West Elementary had 330 students. Today it has about 565. They've added three teachers but there just isn't enough room.

"We'd rather have growth than have a declining population. But with that growth comes certain responsibilities. It requires more resources to manage the growth," Davis said.

Monday, the Wilson County commissioners approved a seven-cent tax increase; nearly half the money goes toward building new classrooms. There will be two new schools and two school expansion projects. West Elementary is one of them.

It can't come soon enough for the music teacher. She has to try to hold the attention of her group of third-grade students while on the other side of a fabric curtain, kids are taking a PE class in the gym.

The expansion at West is expected to be ready in about a year.

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