Maryville City Schools administrators can see the squeeze coming, with enrollment expected to rise by more than 800 students in the next 15 years.
They expect to need larger classes at the junior high and intermediate schools in two years, based on current projections.
Even raising the average class size from 25 to 28 students, Maryville Junior High School is expected to exceed its capacity for serving students in grades eight and nine in the 2025-26 school year.
School officials don’t expect the city to have funding for a new school until at least 2027, when the annual debt service begins to decline.
However long-term plans will impact short-term decisions.
Right now MCS is considering for next summer student and faculty bathroom additions and renovations at Sam Houston Elementary, which opened in 1952. But if the district plans to eventually switch that to a school for older students, it doesn’t make sense to build those restrooms to serve the smallest kids.
If the district wants to build a new school for older students, it likely will need to look outside the current city limits for a parcel of land that is large enough. Land acquisition and annexation will take time and money.
The Maryville Board of Education last week began reviewing the results of a facility planning study it commissioned from Cope Architecture.
The report presented by Jim Hinton, principal at Cope, includes eight options, ranging from no construction costs to $39 million for a plan that would expand Sam Houston Elementary, build a new school for grades seven and eight, and convert the existing junior high to a ninth grade academy.
All of the options are based on enrollment for kindergarten through grade 12 projected to rise from about 5,360 students this year to 6,190 in 2034-35. That’s the year the kindergarten class of 2022-23 would graduate.
Bigger classes, traveling teachersThe no-cost option would rely on increasing class sizes and having traveling teachers at the junior high, instead of each instructor having a classroom home.
School board members at a work session on Aug. 27 noted that is what they will have to do in the interim.
“It’s the option until we can find the other option,” Director Mike Winstead said. “We’re going to grow, and we’re going to get crowded and uncomfortable.”
Increasing the average class size from 25 to 28 students in grades four through seven would hold Coulter Grove and Montgomery Ridge intermediate schools for a decade, to 2029-30.
At an average of 20 students per class, the three elementary schools would reach capacity in 2032-33. Increase that average to 22, and they will have enough room through the study period.
Traveling teachers at the junior high also would allow it to continue serving grades eight and nine through 2034-35.
Half of the eight options presented would require traveling teachers at the junior high.
With many instructional materials cloud based today, Winstead said traveling between classrooms isn’t as difficult. He noted some school models have teachers sharing a common office and traveling to different classrooms.
“I’d rather every teacher travel than 20 teachers travel,” Winstead said.
Board member Candy Morgan said she isn’t in favor of traveling teachers and wants the board to consider the impact of larger class sizes.
Expand or build
The lowest-cost option with construction, estimated at $9 million, would add eight classrooms each to Sam Houston Elementary, Montgomery Ridge Intermediate and Maryville Junior High.
With that option the district could keep intermediate school average class sizes at 25 until 2028-29, and raising the number to 28 would accommodate students throughout the period studied.
The most expensive option Cope presented, $39 million, would build a new school for grades seven and eight and expand Sam Houston.
Under that scenario, the intermediate schools would serve grades four through eight, and the junior high would become a ninth grade academy.
Six of the options include building a new school, although the grade levels vary.
In the eighth option Maryville would build a new elementary school to replace Sam Houston, pare the intermediate schools back to serving grades four through sixth and move seventh graders into the Sam Houston building. That would still rely on traveling teachers at the junior high, and by the 2023-24 school year they would need larger class sizes for the seventh graders.
Seventh grader enrollment would outgrow the Sam Houston building in the 2034-35 school year, even with larger classes.
Half of the options likely would require annexing land.
“Maybe you could find a space for an elementary school in the city limits, but it would be very hard to find space for the other schools in the city right now,” Winstead said.
A new elementary school, proposed in two options, might fit on 8 or 10 flat acres, Hinton said.
Winstead said if the district considers building a new school for grades four through eight, it might look in the Sam Houston attendance zone, off Montvale Road. A new school to serve grades seven and eight might be located off Morganton Road.
Maryville High School currently is landlocked on 12 acres. “Forty normally is the minimum for high schools,” Winstead said with a laugh.
While the study originally focused on relieving congestion in the intermediate grades and didn’t include the high school, Tuesday’s discussion led board members to ask Hinton to add the high school into the mix.
“To make our study complete, we need to bring the high school into it,” Winstead explained.
A 2007 study by Johnson Architecture presented five options for the future of Maryville’s high school, with costs ranging up to $109 million.
Although capacity at MHS currently is listed at 1,450 to 1,600, Winstead noted programming has changed, particularly with new career and technical education classes in the past decade. The Central Office also has expanded its use of high school space.
Today enrollment for grades 10-12 is about 1,300, and Winstead said it is close to needing traveling teachers.
Two of the options would make the current junior high a ninth grade academy. In that type of scenario, Winstead told the board, they probably would consider it an extension of the high school campus, administered by the same principal.
“The ninth graders would be programmed there, but we also would use that as an extension and an addition that we can’t have here,” he said during the meeting at the culinary arts building that is part of the high school campus. “I certainly would see, if that ever came to light down the road, I would see buses employed full time to transfer kids, back and forth, every period of the day.
“It is a creative way, I think, to handle the high school situation down the road,” Winstead said.
That would create a combined enrollment capacity of 2,400 to 2,500 students for grades nine through 12. “I don’t think any of us will be alive when we see 600 kids in a grade in Maryville,” he told the board members. “That would buy a lot of time.”
MCS also asked Hinton to add to the study how much of each school’s capacity would be used in the different scenarios, to ensure buildings aren’t underutilized.
The next step will be to gather input from teachers and parents across the district, asking them to list pros and cons of each option academically and socially. Winstead said he’d also like to hear the perspective of older students, who have been through the schools.