With U-40 age growth, Town needs new school soon: FBA

School options in Farragut, without children enduring overcrowding at the primary and intermediate levels, for parents under age 40 with elementary-aged boys and girls — a quickly growing demographic in Town — was a hot topic at Shop Farragut/Farragut Business Alliance’s latest meeting.

As with meeting topics before, Alliance chair Candace Viox shared her observations as a Farragut business owner to get the ball rolling during its monthly meeting Wednesday morning, July 14, in Town Hall Conference Room.

At Water into Wine bistro & lounge during the span of a few years, “The amount of under-40s has tripled in my restaurant,” she said.

“They’re concerned (that) we don’t have a plan to expand the schools, or we don’t have the money,” she added.

In short, “Are there some other options for these highly educated, six-figure-income families, to put their kids in the Farragut schools?” Viox asked. “We’re completely overrun with all this housing.”

Fearing even more overcrowding for the Town’s pubic schools — especially at Farragut Primary and Farragut Intermediate — “They’re asking me where their kids are going to school, and I’m telling them I don’t know,” Viox said.

“Farragut Intermediate and Farragut Primary are very overcrowded — they are busting at the seams,” said Susan Horn, chair of Knox County Board of Education and District 5 representative (including Farragut schools), in a separate interview. “… Both schools have several portable buildings that have already been there for several years. Those were always intended just to be a temporary fix.

“Even though birth rates are decreasing overall, with the amount of families moving to Farragut, with the number of neighborhoods being built, I think it’s vital” to build a new school, she added. “We really just have no choice.”

As for solutions from the School Board, David Smoak, Town administrator, said during the meeting, “it’s in the budget for them to buy property and build an elementary school in the next few years.”

Horn said a new K-5 public school in Farragut was approved, with funding, “in late April,” though property is still being sought.

Town Mayor Ron Williams pointed out what he labeled as “the Coward Mill School, which is an elementary school (K-5) being built out in Hardin Valley. “That’s going to change the whole metrics of Farragut schools. It will pull a lot of students out of the north side of our Town into the Hardin Valley schools.”

Horn said “the northwest sector school — it doesn’t have a name yet — that school was delayed because of a purchasing issue. They were supposed to start and build it this year, to open in the fall of 2022, but it’s actually been pushed out (to open) in the fall of 2023.”

However, as for helping to lessen Farragut’s K-5 overcrowding, “We haven’t had rezoning conversations on that yet,” Horn said. “It’s possible it might take some of that area, but I really can’t say for sure.”