ABOVE: A rendering shows the approach to the new entry at Christ Presbyterian Academy, west of Brentwood. // SUBMITTED
By MELISSA HAMBRICK
Finding a parking place in downtown Franklin. Sitting in Columbia Pike traffic. New neighborhoods seemingly popping up on every corner.
Some signs of Williamson County’s population boom are definitely more welcome than others.
With families flocking to the area, schools are making strides to respond to the influx of new students. And while Williamson County’s two public school systems work toward accommodating the growth, about half of our area private schools are undertaking expansion and building plans as well.
Four schools — Grace Christian Academy, Franklin Classical School, Franklin Christian Academy, and Christ Presbyterian Academy — have major construction plans in the works already. Two others — Brentwood Academy and Battle Ground Academy — are eyeing the future with plans that are on paper and ready to launch within the next few years.
Christ Presbyterian Academy (CPA) is Williamson County’s largest private school, serving more than 1,200 preschool through 12th grade students. In 2011, the school, based on the campus of Christ Presbyterian Church, built a new high school, which already is at capacity.
On Sunday, March 3, CPA is hosting a songwriter’s night for their families to celebrate the launch of a capital campaign called Transforming Stories: The Campaign for Christ Presbyterian Academy. Their master campus plan will grow what the school calls “engagement opportunities,” to transform the campus into a center for hospitality, community, security and life-changing transformation.
For CPA, this means a new main entrance, and a central quad and garden space that will anchor the center of campus. A 550-seat theater also will be added. This new phase of construction will be the largest campus improvement in the school’s history, according to Nate Morrow, CPA’s Head of School.
“We’re increasing our safety and security, and we’re growing our community, to increase hospitality, our public venues, and our performing arts space. Over the next 12 months there will be a lot of activity on this campus,” Morrow says.
Across town, 25-year-old Franklin Classical School will end years as a tenant in various churches and spaces in the community by building its permanent home at 4150 Clovercroft Road on 16.5 acres, in partnership with Parish Presbyterian Church. FCS is currently located in downtown Franklin, at 408 Church Street, in a building shared with Generations Church.
With enrollment increasing steadily at the Christian classical school, FCS has targeted fall 2020 for the move to their new home, currently under construction. Phase one includes a multipurpose facility, including a gymnasium, classrooms, a playground, and green space.
“A lot of the growth in Franklin is coming east of I-65, which puts us in a great place to both provide for existing families, who come from all over, but also for new developments and families moving to our area,” says FCS principal Jeff Dokkestul.
Grace Christian Academy has projected growth for the next several years that would double their enrollment numbers from just three years ago. Though it is completely independent of Grace Chapel, the current school is housed on the church’s campus near Leiper’s Fork, which is over 100 acres. Within the next two to three years, GCA is hopes to expand the high school campus by adding more classrooms and building a high school gymnasium.
Currently the high school is housed in an approximately 17,000-square-foot Mount Vernon replica house on Grace Chapel’s campus.
GCA recently announced the launch of a second campus, located at Thompson Station Church at 2605 Thompson Station Road. The 10-year-old pre-K through 12 school is currently enrolling for their second campus in Thompson’s Station, which may be more convenient for some of their families and offer a closer private school option for that area of the county.
The second campus will serve grades K-4, and headed by Dan Spencer, who has led spiritual life at the current GCA campus and served as assistant principal for elementary. Tuition will be the same at both campuses, but the first families enrolled at the new campus for 2019-20 will receive $1,000 annually off their tuition per child as one of the Founding Families.
At 818 Old Charlotte Pike East, Franklin Christian Academy is headed into Phase Two of their growth plan. Currently serving grades 5-12, plans are under way to add grades K-4 in fall 2020. Ultimately, according to Headmaster Hugh Harris, the school plans to grow no larger than 400-450 students, to maintain the FCA mission and vision.
Phase Two also includes 10 more classrooms, and a mezzanine with space for tutoring which opens into a common area and library, with a design inspired by The Factory at Franklin. Eight of those classrooms will empty into the common area, with two additional larger classrooms for fine arts. Administrative space will grow, with office space, a teacher break room, and a conference room. Outside, the upper parking lot will connect to Highway 96 through Morning Pointe. The campus’ 15.5 acres will see the addition of a football/soccer turf field, and a concession stand.
“We are working with architects to go through the design and permitting phase, establishing our contractor, but hope to start building this summer,” Harris says about the construction, which he hopes will be completely by fall 2020 and potentially accommodate an additional 150 students.
Battle Ground Academy, the county’s oldest private school, already has two campuses: the Harpeth Campus on Franklin Road that serves elementary students, and the Glen Echo Campus that houses Middle and Upper School on Ernest Rice Lane, off Mack Hatcher Parkway. In 2012, BGA completed the Mary Campbell Visual Arts Center, and in 2014, the Jewell Athletic and Wellness Center.
Since 1996, the school has developed an Entrepreneurial Leadership program, which requires a different kind of space.
“Most schools are classrooms, and hallways to get kids to the next classroom. But we need those spaces between instructional spaces — collaboration spaces, with a lot more glass into offices, meeting rooms, and literal transparency about working together and with each other,” says Will Kesler, BGA’s Head of School. “We are working to combine creativity and the presentation aspects of performing arts — how do a take a soliloquy by Shakespeare and present it in a compelling way to an audience, but also have a space for presentation for entrepreneurship?”
Though he says they are not ready to say when it will launch, Kesler says things are moving along well as they meet with architects to plan BGA’s new planned space, which will be called the Center for Arts and Entrepreneurship, which will be located on the Glen Echo Campus.
Designed to be capped at 720 students, Brentwood Academy has grown beyond to house 740 students starting at 6th grade and going through 12th . Though they intend to stay at that size and not grow in numbers of students, they also see the need to reconfigure space for new educational opportunities.
Brentwood Academy currently has preliminary drawings to utilize space at the corner of Virginia Way and Granny White Pike that would add science and robotics space, with potential student-centered space or a dining facility.
“We are looking toward more flexible space, where students can collaborate in their learning, studying, and free time. Plus our robotics program has grown significantly over the past five years, beginning with five students in 2013, and expanded to include more than 50 students in the upper and middle schools, and now hosting VEX robotics competitions,” says Curt Masters, Headmaster at Brentwood Academy.
New Hope Academy, a pre-K through 6th grade school with a unique philosophy toward enrollment that facilitates economic, racial, and cultural diversity, has no major building programs on the agenda, even with 97% capacity for enrollment. Instead, their growth includes a greenhouse and outdoor classroom in the next year, provided for by grants and dedicated donations. They are also increasing the number of roles in the Advancement Department, to help the school grow in the community and increase
Whether adding a greenhouse or building an entirely new campus from the ground up, Williamson County’s private schools are poised to serve the community. Open houses and enrollment at private schools is currently ongoing, and educators encourage interested families to contact them quickly to set up tours and find out more about registration.
PRIVATE SCHOOLING IN WILLIAMSON COUNTY