By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
Midway through its ninth school year, enrollment at Oakland Middle School is already up to 1,186 students.
On Monday, overcrowding of the school will be relieved with the opening of a brand new 69,700 square foot annex that will house the entire seventh grade. In addition to classrooms there are science labs, a gymnasium, nursing station and an additional administrative area.
A new dining area for the seventh-graders is located across a short breezeway that connects the main school building with the annex. The only other time students will regularly move between the annex and the main building is to use the library.
“To go from 10 portable classrooms to 25 state-of-the-art classrooms — like we’re getting — it’s kind of mind-blowing,” said Oakland Middle Principal Dr. Tori Ruis, who explained the move will in turn cut down on the congestion for the sixth- and eighth-graders in the main building.
There was a ribbon cutting ceremony and an open house of the Oakland Middle annex on Sunday, Jan. 13 from 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
Director of Schools Bill Spurlock is excited for Ruis to have an opportunity to move the seventh grade “into an environment that is conducive to learning.”
“Esthetically it’s a beautiful addition,” Spurlock added.
Ruis and Spurlock will lead the ribbon cutting along with Rutherford County School Board members, representatives from the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce and Rutherford County commissioners.
Ruis said the community can come and go and tour the new annex as they please. Those who do attend will experience how moving 500 students from the main building “changes the entire atmosphere” of the school.
It now gives everyone their own space.
The decision to move the seventh-graders into the annex is two-fold.
First, they are the largest of the three grade levels. Second, Oakland Middle is unique in that it has multiple elementary schools that feed into his population, so each grade level is not full until seventh grade because some of their feeder programs include Murfreesboro City Schools. Those students have the choice to wait until seventh grade to transfer into Oakland Middle.
This means an average sixth grade group of 375 students will expand to 500 as seventh graders.
“It makes sense to put them out there because our seventh grade needs the time to become one unit,” Ruis said. “By putting them all that one building, it gives them that cohesiveness.”
Ruis added, “And it’s maximizing the usage of the building too (and) using the building to the best of its ability.”
It will provide the middle school the space and opportunity to add new programs that feed into the high school pathways at Oakland.
Football and soccer fields were relocated across the street to make room for an additional parking area and, according to Trey Lee, assistant superintendent engineering and construction, as of Monday, Jan. 14, there will be a new traffic pattern “to alleviate traffic that backs up onto Dejarnette Lane.”