A late-breaking point of contention in the Williamson County Schools rezoning was the placement of the coming large subdivision of Stephens Valley.
The developer of the 900-plus home division, which will add potentially more than 400 students (21 per year over 20 years) to the district, offered $1.2 million to remain in the Franklin zone last week before rescinding the offer.
The board followed the district’s recommended rezoning Plan A1 in all but one instance. An amendment to send students from Stephens Valley, which is off Sneed Road in the northern part of the county, from Franklin High School area to Grassland Elementary and Fairview Middle and High Schools passed. It could affect about 21 students per year over the next 5 years. Another rezoning will likely be needed by then. This was against the recommendation of superintendent Dr. Mike Looney, who said it would create the need for an extra bus and cost an extra $200,000 per year because of that. The surrounding area is still in the Franklin High School and feeder area. Annie McGraw, 4th District, Jay Galbreath, 6th District, Angela Durham, 1st District, and Candy Emerson, 8th District, were all vocal in their support of the amendment.
Emerson said as far as she knew Plan A1 always had Stephens Valley in the Fairview High School zone. She implied that a change had been made to Plan A1 without the board’s being alerted.
Some confusion also arose over whether Looney had not changed his opinion on Stephens Valley after the developer, John Rochford, made an offer to donate $1.2 million to Franklin High School with the stipulation of remaining for 10 years in the FHS zone. The donation offer was rescinded on Friday. The board met on Thursday for a work session to discuss zoning. Looney said he did not bring up the potential request at the work session because he was still in talks with Rochford.
Galbreath said Looney had changed his tune about Stephens Valley between the work session and the voting meeting on Monday.
“At the work session on Thursday, where did you say Stephens Valley should be zoned?” Galbreath asked Looney.
“Franklin,” said Looney.
“No you said Fairvew, I remember because I gave you two opportunities to answer,” Galbreath said.
Looney said he must have misunderstood the questions.
“I have no emotional attachment to whether this is zoned Fairview or Franklin,” Looney said.
What he does have an emotional attachment to, he said, is saving money and doing what is best in the district’s opinion for students. Moving Stephens Valley to Fairview he said creates an issue with transportation; a zone was already set aside near it off Old Natchez Trace by request to go to Franklin and the surrounding area also goes to Franklin. It creates the need for two extra buses to run the Stephens Valley students. Also, he said by singling out Stephens Valley it was going against the way it has dealt with all other requests from developers.
Looney said in every other instance of a request if it did not lead to an over-capacity within five years the request to remain or switch zones with borderline developments was accepted.
Board members argued that it is a much more common sense approach to send Stephens Valley straight down Highway 100 to Fairview than down Sneed Road to Franklin that is already difficult to travel on in any kind of traffic.
“It just makes more sense,” McGraw said.
Also, the board members said it made more sense to send a development which currently has no students in it and is being built to Fairview, which is much further under capacity than Franklin. It leaves Franklin less stressed.
Looney said that the point may be moot. The district projects that it will need to build a new north high school by 2024, which would necessitate a rezoning and likely encompass Stephens Valley.