Rezoning meeting planned Monday in Rutherford County due to overcrowded high school

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RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN – Significant growth in Rutherford County is prompting discussions about rezoning that could impact students at several high schools.

Rockvale High School principal Steve Luker said the issue is their school being overcrowded. The school opened for its first year in 2019 with 1700 students and now they’re up to 2,450 students.

“The first year we had about 130 Seniors, seniors were allowed to stay at their former schools. So a lot of them chose to stay. But we had 130 students that decided to spend their senior year here,” Luker explained. “Then we’ve had back-to-back classes for the last two years coming in as freshmen of over 600. And this year were our freshman classes that around 700 students.”

He added that a lot of people are moving to Rutherford County for a variety of reasons. But the Rockvale community, in particular, has experienced significant growth in recent years.

“Rockvale has a lot of areas that can be developed and or they’re in the process,” he said. “We have two major neighborhoods that are literally right next door to us; one is going to have over 360 homes and one of the other ones will have close to 300 so right in our neighborhood.”

The school now has 10 portables as well as traveling teachers to accommodate those students. Also, the school has five lunches with about 500 students each making the whole lunch period about two hours. The COVID-19 pandemic presents additional challenges for an overcrowded school.

“There’s very little room for social distancing here at Rockvale, but I think our kids have really learned in the last couple of years to keep their distance from other students and I think that’s just kind of what has happened now and in society that we’ve learned to do that,” Luker said. “But, we do have a lot of kids in our building. So, in COVID, is one of our concerns, trying to mitigate that.”

District leaders are now considering spreading out the students at Rockvale to other schools. The Rutherford County School Board is studying rezoning options that may affect Rockvale High, Riverdale High, Blackman High and Siegel High.

“Rezoning is never fun, it’s never easy, and it gets emotional especially when a kid comes to school, they start as a freshman. You know, we end up with sophomore, junior, senior, you know, then there’s pride that’s built-in that school,” he said. “To go into a school that they’re not familiar with, there’s a lot of, I guess, uncertainty about that. But all of our schools are great here, Rutherford County.”

He said there are convenience challenges for parents as well.

“Here at Rockvale, we have an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school. So they’re right here within sight of each other,” Luker said. “Lots of parents like to send their kids to a school where they can go from one school to the next to the next and really never leave that community, which we’re able to do here at Rockvale.

The Rutherford County School Board will host a rezoning information meeting for parents Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Rockvale High School in the auditorium. District leaders said the purpose of the meeting is to gather input from parents before making a final decision.

“We don’t want to say goodbye to any of our kids, though, you know, we, we built relationships with them,” Luker said. “But it’s one of those scenarios where we want to make sure our schools are equally populated and are able to offer the same programs as all the other schools and, you know, the rezoning is never easiest. It’s emotional. And when kids are involved, you really want to take into account how they feel about it.”

Parents can also live-stream the meeting from the district’s Youtube page.

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