The City Paper's Joey Garrison has a big piece this morning on a neighborhood controversy with broader implications for the city: the concerns of parents at Green Hills' Julia Green Elementary School that long-range plans for the respected school's expansion guarantee a future of overcrowding and neighborhood congestion:
“Julia Green is an amazing school,” said Haley Dale, the parent of a Julia Green kindergartner, citing satisfaction with the school’s parental participation, teachers and curriculum.
But parents like Dale are questioning Metro Nashville Public Schools’ long-term plan to expand the school through the construction of 12 additional classrooms to address Julia Green’s rapid growth, a scenario many learned about at a March meeting with school district officials. Though the projected $2.8 million building addition isn’t finalized or appropriated, the subject has nonetheless dominated chatter there.
In short time, Julia Green has mushroomed from a student body of 412 just four years ago to a projected enrollment of 626 next school year. Five portable classrooms are currently used to handle the overflow, and one more will be utilized next year. The growth trajectory is only expected to continue, a trend that would follow the Hillsboro cluster’s overall projected increase of 1,200 elementary school students over the next seven years.
On the surface, expansion might seem logical.
Stephanie Edwards, parent of a rising third-grader and a kindergartner, however, called the plan a “Band-Aid approach.” On top of a host of other concerns about a future addition — ranging from snarled traffic to diminished educational quality — many parents worry that the expansion wouldn’t actually solve the problem, based on estimates of future enrollment.
“Twelve classrooms — they could finish that construction, and we would still need portables if those numbers held true,” said Mary Pierce, who heads the school’s parent-teacher organization. “It’s been a tough issue within the Julia Green community.”
In this upscale area — where the rate of public-versus-private schooling runs about 50-50 among children — parents are looking for other solutions to overcrowded schools. They’re frustrated. Some fear future zoning and student assignment changes. And many have their eyes on a proposed Metro charter school called Great Hearts Academies, subject to school board approval later this month. Taking advantage of the state’s new open enrollment law, the school would act as Metro’s first charter to cater to Green Hills students.
In the end, the unrest at Julia Green is likely just the beginning of a process to grapple with growth within the Hillsboro cluster, which includes Julia Green, and another challenge: satisfying a part of the county that often turns away from the public schools system in favor of private education.