Final zoning approved for Liberty Creek schools

Dr. Mary Day Reynolds, Jason Bennett and Dr. Phillip Holt attended a groundbreaking in August for the new Liberty Creek Schools campus. The Sumner County Board of Education recently approved the final zoning for the three schools that will open in August of 2022.

Sumner County School Board members recently approved a final zoning for three new schools set to open in August on the 265-acre Liberty Creek campus.

Liberty Creek elementary and high schools will open in separate state-of-the-art buildings on the campus along Upper Station Camp Creek Road north of Long Hollow Pike. Liberty Creek Middle School will open at that time as well, but will share space at the new high school. A new middle school building is expected to open in August of 2024.

Not long after plans for the new school campus were announced in late 2018, School Board members voted on an initial Stage 1 rezoning in early 2019.

Director of Schools Dr. Del Phillips presented the final zoning maps during a School Board study session on Nov. 2, explaining continued growth in the area necessitated a change from the initial plan.

Several neighborhoods west of Highway 109 and north of Long Hollow Pike tentatively zoned for the new elementary school will remain in the Howard Elementary School zone, Phillips explained.

However, students in those same neighborhoods will be zoned for Liberty Creek Middle and High schools – creating what Phillips called a split zone.

Phillips said that Liberty Creek Elementary will open with 500-525 students, leaving room for future growth at the school that will have a capacity for 850 students.

During the regular School Board meeting on Nov. 16, Stratford Park resident Katey Daugherty asked that school board members keep the boundaries as originally planned so that her sons could attend Liberty Creek Elementary instead of Howard where she says her child attends class in a portable classroom.

Gallatin School Board member Betsy Hawkins said that her district is greatly impacted by the zoning change – and residential growth.

Hawkins said she did her own research about the growth in her area by counting the number of residential developments listed on the city of Gallatin’s website.

“I have to say I was pretty surprised at the number of developments under construction – ones that are not even occupied yet,” she said.

She counted 4,359 units under construction or in the final approval stages in the Station Camp schools zone, Hawkins added.

“The total in my district is 6,853 units under construction right now. These are families, people who are going to be flooding our schools in the next year or two,” she said.

Hawkins said she met with every principal in her district about the issue and one principal she met with described “a moving target” when predicting growth in the area.

Hawkins said she sympathized with those who wanted to be zoned for the new elementary school, but agreed Phillips’ proposal seemed to best prepare for future growth.

“In looking at these numbers, they’re going to go to Liberty Creek for one or two years and they’re going to get transferred back, and that’s hard on the children,” she said. “I have to look at the big picture and I have to look at my whole district in order to get an understanding for what the path forward is in all of this.”

Phillips agreed with Hawkins that planning for growth is a moving target but said the district keeps track of attendance numbers at each school on a monthly basis.

“We tried to do our best to predict that moving target,” he said. “But just in what you referenced in housing — that whole area is where all of those units for the most part are located.”

Phillips said that over the next two or three years, multiple school zones could change due to growth in the area.

“I’m not saying it’s coming next year or the next, but we do know that will be something that we’ll have to tackle,” he said. “It could include six or seven or eight schools.”

Rising seniors (who are current juniors) will be allowed to choose whether they want to stay at their current high school or attend the new Liberty Creek High School. All other students in the zoned areas will be required to attend their assigned school beginning with the 2022-23 school year.

Phillips announced principals for the three new schools in June.

Former Station Camp Elementary School principal Dr. Phillip Holt was named the high school principal; former Merrol Hyde Magnet School assistant principal Jason Bennett will lead the middle school; and current Burrus Elementary School principal Dr. Mary Day Reynolds will head up the new elementary school.

Start times for the new schools are expected to be announced in January. Staffing and coaching hires will be announced as they are finalized.