MT. JULIET -- Simple arithmetic: Two times three makes for much more effective learning, or so Mt. Juliet educators and Wilson County administrators hope.
Three Mt. Juliet schools got some much-needed new space this fall. Rutland Elementary, West Elementary and West Wilson Middle School each nearly doubled in size, or will do so later this month.
“We literally had teachers teaching in closets and tutoring in the halls,” said West Elementary Principal Becky Siever. “Now we have space.”
The school, which serves about 700 students, added 14 new classrooms, a new gym and a new cafeteria.
Rutland, with 900 students, added a whole new school to its campus. As of Oct. 21, the campus will have pre-kindergarten through second grade classes in its new building.
Third through fifth grades will have classes in the older building, which is getting an “extreme makeover” during fall break, according to Principal Cathy York.
She said two buildings are needed due to the school’s growing population. “I think we are the largest elementary in the county,” she said, adding the area that Rutland serves is still “booming.” Students residing in the Villages of Mt. Juliet (Belinda City) and the Providence area attend Rutland.
While York will continue to serve as principal for the entire campus, each building will have its own assistant principal. Shaunna Davis will work with the upper grades while Stephanie Hines covers the lower grades.
At West Wilson Middle, the new addition includes 25 classrooms and two new science labs. Principal Wendell Marlowe said he and his staff decided to use the new space to create a separate wing for sixth graders.
“It’s almost a sixth-grade academy,” Marlowe noted.
The separate wing “gives the sixth graders time to adjust from the more protective environment they were in to the middle-school atmosphere with more freedom,” he said.
Marlowe also said his teachers were “doubled up and roaming” last year, either sharing classrooms or working from carts they pushed from class to class. “Now all of our teachers have their own classrooms. Last year we were packed in like sardines.”
The middle school currently serves about 1,100 students and it’s still growing, he added.
At West Elementary, because of the new cafeteria and gym, the school underwent quite a bit of remodeling in the older section of the school, too. The old cafeteria has been divided into extra office space and day care for employees’ children. The old gym was divided to create a large art room and a music room, according to Siever.
West Wilson Middle School added about 48,000 square feet at a cost of $7,959,040, according to Assistant Director of Schools Micky Hall. West Elementary added 48,000 square feet at a cost of $11,360,880, and Rutland’s new building will add 78,000 square feet at a cost of $13,700,000.
All together, the improvements at the three schools cost a little more than $33 million and are adding 174,000 square feet of space.
All three schools also added new loop roads to help improve traffic flow and safety, Hall said.
One other important change also was made at West Wilson Middle School, Hall added. The relocation of the administrative offices and the new front entrance mean the school now has a secure entrance.
Rutland is also getting a new playground for its new pre-K through second grade building. “We’re just really excited to have some extra room to do some exciting things with our students,” York said.
Rutland is planning its ribbon-cutting and open house for Oct. 20 from 2-4 p.m., with actual classes starting in the new building the following day.
West Elementary students and staff have been in their new space since school started, but the school is staging a grand opening on Oct. 27 from 2-4 p.m. It will include an open house for the public to come visit both the new and remodeled parts of the school.
“We love to show off our building,” Siever said. “It’s kind of like having a new baby.”
She said the theme of the open house will be gratitude, because the students, teachers and parents are grateful to all those who made the improvements to their school possible.
Work at West Wilson Middle School was completed a little earlier than the other two schools, so the school’s opening ceremonies took place in August when school started.
But the principals at all three schools noted parents and community members are welcome to come visit and arrange a walk-through if they want to see the improvements.
Correspondent Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.