One year after a tornado destroyed two Wilson County Schools buildings in Mt. Juliet, damaged the district’s bus barn and heavily damaged Mt. Juliet Christian Academy, the schools are at different stages of rebuilding.
West Wilson Middle School and Stoner Creek Elementary School were destroyed by the tornado. Students from the schools have been using classroom space at Mt. Juliet Middle School, Mt. Juliet High School and Green Hill High School.
Since then, WCS has been negotiating with Travelers Insurance Company to settle the claim. Travelers and school board attorney Mike Jennings have not agreed on the amount that the insurance company will pay the district to rebuild the schools, Jennings said.
An initial design of West Wilson Middle School and Stoner Creek Elementary School buildings was discussed by Jason Morris with Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris Architects during the Jan. 28 board workshop. The firm is based in Mt. Juliet.
One key sticking point is that Mt. Juliet city code requires that safe rooms be built in schools. The safe room size is based on total occupancy number in an assembly area.
The board voted to allow WCS Director of Safety Steve Spencer to make an application with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement of some of the costs. The application could not be completed until the bid process is concluded and a company is chosen to demolish and rebuild the schools.
WCS Director Dr. Donna Wright told the board that it probably will take at least 14 months to complete SCES and 18-20 months to complete WWMS.
Wright said that there is nothing they can add “at this time until we come to an agreement with the insurance company. So, until we have some sort of an agreement or arrangement, we are going to refrain from any comments beyond what has already been stated.”
The tornado significantly impacted the middle school and high school wings, library, gymnasium, and athletic fields at MJCA.
MJCA was able to finish the spring 2020 semester through online learning and “jumped right into planning for the fall,” said MJCA spokesperson Katherine Lynn.
Prior to the tornadoes, “plans were already in place for First Baptist Church to break ground on a new Worship Center and campus expansion project to be able to accommodate the needs of the community and better facilitate ministry. The tornado greatly expanded this project and brought about new challenges but greater vision for the campus,” Lynn said.
The school opened for in-person learning last August with high school students starting at an off-site location. Temporary buildings provided 22 new classrooms and office space for MJCA students to make up for lost classroom space.
Secondary students were back on campus in the temporary buildings by October.
“Despite many challenges, MJCA has been devoted to keeping students on campus as much as possible,” Lynn said.
The school settled with its insurance company last December and First Baptist Church Mt. Juliet broke ground on the new Worship Center and campus expansion project last month.
The overall campus project is scheduled for completion in 18-21 months, Lynn said. However, the rebuilding of the tornado-damaged portions of campus are scheduled to be completed by the end of the summer, she said.