KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knox County Schools is considering spending an estimated $60 million to build three new schools to combat overcrowded classrooms and old schools.
Lonsdale and Adrian Burnett Elementary Schools would get new buildings, and a new school would be built in Northwest Knox County to help decrease the number of students at Karns Elementary and Hardin Valley Elementary.
As Knox County grows, so does the number of students going to school. Superintendent Bob Thomas says the district is desperate for more space.
"It really doesn’t meet the needs that we feel like we need for students," Thomas said. "You have to have seats for students, and when you look at the northwest portion of the county we are going to soon run out of seats."
The superintendent plans to submit his recommendation to the Board of Education in April. From there, it will be submitted to Knox County mayor Glenn Jacobs and the County Commission for approval.
In 2006, less than 53,000 students attended classes. Now the number is up to nearly 61,000. Schools everywhere from Lonsdale to Karns to Hardin Valley are feeling the impact.
"It is very clear just even to the naked eye that these schools are well beyond their prime and need to be replaced," said Board of Education Chair Terry Hill. "We will be in a serious overcrowding situation in those Elementary Schools if we don’t get something else built out there."
Adrian Burnett Elementary has been on the list of capital improvement recommendations for years, but always without funding. The same is true for a solution to ease overcrowding at Karns and Hardin Valley Elementary Schools, where the district says enrollment is projected to increase by 6 percent and 9 percent over the next five years respectively.
At Lonsdale Elementary, Thomas says the district made a promise to the community that they plan to keep.
"When we met with the Lonsdale community last year and the faculty, we made a commitment that we would take a look at the facility because there were some overcrowding issues," said Thomas.
The list of capital improvement recommendations is based on metrics like overcrowding, how old buildings are, and immediate need. Some projects, like construction to Adrian Burnett Elementary, can stay on the list for years without actually getting funding.
"A lot of this depends on funding and the availability of funding of course," said Thomas. "Everyone would like a new school, but the functionality of the building, and making sure that the code requirements are what they need to be, and that the overcrowding situation is taken care of... those are the factors we would look at initially."