Rutherford County Schools are expanding more rapidly than originally planned

Rezoning is affecting students again with school expansions on the way


Courtesy of Rutherford County Schools

With more and more people moving to Murfreesboro, schools are expanding at rapid rates, causing rezoning plans to be made.

After the building of Rockvale High School, Rutherford County has grown exponentially, causing yet another rezoning discussion and solution. 

Rezoning for schools is related to the homes, neighborhoods, apartments, etc., in a certain area that will be provided transportation to a certain school. 

Blackman has regained three zones – 13, 14, and 15, all south of Franklin Road – that were zoned to Blackman before Rockvale High School was built. 

“We are losing no students at Blackman High School. Nobody got rezoned somewhere else,” said Dr. Leisa Justus, principal of Blackman High School. 

At the end of the 2018-2019 school year, Rockvale High School opened, changing Blackman’s population dramatically. 

“[Freshman year] it was incredibly crowded, and we had a shorter time for class changes. It was much more difficult to get to and from classes,” stated Emilee Wingate, senior. 

In previous years, students needed a zone exemption form in order to attend a school outside of their area, but now they are allowing rising 10th-12th grade students to choose to stay at their current school. All incoming ninth-grade students must attend where they are zoned. 

This option to stay at their current school is called “grandfathering,” and any student that selects the grandfather option must notify their current school.  

Unlike previous years, siblings are not grandfathered. This means that if your sibling attends Rockvale as an 11th-grade student, and you are zoned for Blackman as a ninth-grade student, you cannot go to Rockvale. 

“The upperclassmen . . . have a choice: they can continue to go to Rockvale if they want to and if they can drive themselves, or they can come to Blackman High School,” stated Justus. 

The Rutherford County Board of Education approved the rezoning plan on January 29, 2022.  

With this rezoning, the expected enrollment at Blackman High School will grow from 1997 to 2101. Other Rutherford County high schools will have similar growth, Blackman being the second highest projected change.   

“Over four years, we’ll end up being 2400-2500 students. In a minute, we will be completely overcrowded,” said Justus. 

Freshmen will feel this increase over their time at BHS. 

“[The increase] will definitely be more overwhelming, and I think it also increases the risk of issues between students because more people get annoyed,” stated Ashley Torres, freshman. 

Because of this large increase in students, Blackman is planning to have a building expansion as soon as possible. There are no current plans for where this will be added, what it will look like, or even how much it will cost. Future board meetings will discuss this information. 

“The school board has said that we are one of the first five schools to get an extension. The county commission has to vote on it and fund it,” stated Justus. 

This expansion is necessary because of how quickly Murfreesboro is growing. Around 85-90 students are estimated to join per year from these added zones. 

A new school at some point will be necessary because of this large student growth. Expansions will not end up being enough to house all these students. 

“I can definitely see down the road there will need to be a high school. The Board approved that they would like to ask the County Commission to fund five additions to high schools. If each of those additions is 400-500 kids, then you’re talking about extra space for 2000-2500 kids. That’s a school. You can almost build a school through all the expansions. Even with that, there’s going to have to be a school,” stated Justus. 

Some schedule changes will likely be made in the upcoming years, along with changes to teacher locations. 

“Next year, we’ll probably have to float some teachers, which means they don’t have a specific classroom . . . we’ve floated up to 15 teachers here before, and it works,” said Justus. 

Floating means that teachers will move between classrooms to teach each period. 

As we crawl out of this pandemic, fewer changes will be made every year to COVID procedures, unless they are being taken away. There is only so much that can be done with any increase of students. 

“All we can do is kind of what we’re doing now [for COVID procedures], which we still try to limit the number of movements there are in a day [and] open more places for students to sit during lunch. We’ll continue the cleaning protocols, we’ll continue the teacher cleaning and laptop cleaning, anything where you can transfer germs easily,” stated Justus. 

This sudden rezoning made the Blackman Collegiate Academy rethink how they were doing the application process this year and make quick changes. 

“We were in the middle of our annual application window when the rezoning was going on, so we were watchful and kept listening to what we were hearing. As it seemed like we were going to be going to get some students, we wanted to make sure those students had the same opportunity as everyone else,” said Justin Smith, assistant principal and dean of the BCA. 

Because of this rapid change in plan, it required extra help from teachers and administrators. 

“I was really grateful to the teachers and everyone who pitched in a little extra time just so that those new students could get a warm welcome and get the same opportunity,” stated Smith. 

The rezoning will be a drastic change for all the ninth graders and for some 10th-12th graders who were expecting to attend Rockvale High School during the 2022-23 school year.   

All BHS needs to do is make those rezoned feel at home.