Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney gives a presentation of a rezoning plan during the Board of Education’s work session Thursday night. / Photo by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
The drinking water at all the schools in Williamson County Schools has been deemed safe after the district’s maintenance director and staff performed extensive tests last month.
That news was shared Thursday night at the board of education’s work session, where attendees were also briefed on rezoning plans, online learning progress and other matters that will eventually be voted on at a monthly school board meeting.
To get a jump on a new Tennessee law that went into effect Jan. 1 requiring school districts across the state to develop plans to test for lead contamination in drinking water, WCS Maintenance Director Mark Samuels led an effort during winter break in December to test all 48 schools in the district.
“Mark tested the drinking water at all schools, and every one was well below the limits [required by the new law],” Deputy Superintendent Jason Golden said Thursday.
“But he also tested the backflow preventers, which are large brass fixtures, and many of those are actually above [the limit]. He tested them because he anticipated that possibility because brass over the course of time tends to leach out lead. At the drinking water sites we’re well below, but we feel like, even though it’s not a direct issue with the drinking water, it’s a good idea to replace the backflow preventers over time.”
Golden also gave an update on the district’s number of school bus drivers and routes. He said the pace has generally been good for what is currently needed for drivers handling the increasing number of routes, but growth in the county inevitably means more routes will be needed.
“We’re projecting that we are probably going to need 12 new routes next year based on our preliminary numbers,” Golden said. “So this is an ongoing challenge for us. Our transportation department and human resources have really done a good job recruiting, but this is something we’re going to have to keep constant attention on, constantly recruiting. Even though we’re out of the woods right now, in another six months we’ll be facing it again.”
Due largely to an improved economy the past few years, WCS has struggled to find enough drivers to handle the number of routes and to field enough substitute drivers. The system has dramatically increased the hourly pay and offered benefits over the past couple of years for drivers.
“Another issue we’re facing as we grow is, as our bus routes become denser, it means they generally take fewer minutes to complete,” Golden said. “For somebody on an hourly rate of pay, that means less money. So we know over time we’re going to have to be creative in how we pay our drivers because nobody in any career expects to be slowly making less money.
“There’s a lot of dynamics related to our bus drivers.”
The school board will have its first regular meeting of 2019 on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Williamson County Administrative Complex.