“The Sooner, The Better”

Lakeland Moves Ahead with Plans, Site Selection for Lakeland Prep Project

The proposed site for Lakeland Prep, a project to construct a 262,000 square foot middle/high school in Lakeland lies just north of Highway 70 and east of Canada Road. Access to the site will include public streets from Canada Road and Old Brownsville Road, as well as a future connector to Highway 70. The Lakeland School Board approved purchase of the site on January 12, 2015.

The proposed site for Lakeland Prep, a project to construct a 262,000 square foot middle/high school in Lakeland lies just north of Highway 70 and east of Canada Road. Access to the site will include public streets from Canada Road and Old Brownsville Road, as well as a future connector to Highway 70. The Lakeland School Board approved purchase of the site on January 12, 2015.

Emotions ran strong as speakers at the December 11 Lakeland Board of Commissioners Meeting asked the city’s elected officials to move forward with the $50,000,000 middle/high school project, seen as key to the suburb’s future growth. Other residents called for the board to allow a public referendum on the issuance of bonds to fund the project or to delay the project for a few years.

A supporter of the Lakeland Prep project, Lakeland Mayor Wyatt Bunker was alone among the elected officials in his willingness to allow a special referendum on the bond issue.

“An item this size ($50 million) on this many people (12,000) should go to a public vote,” Bunker stated,  adding that he has no fears about it passing.

Bunker’s resolution to call for a special election failed, however, when none of the commissioners seconded his motion. Ultimately,  Commissioner Randy Nicholson reflected the view of the board when he agreed with comments about the uncertainty of Lakeland’s secondary school bringing harm to the community. “If we wait 3-4 years to be sure, I don’t think parents will wait,” said Nicholson.

The resolution “authorizing the issuance of not to exceed fifty million dollars (of general obligation school bonds of the City of Lakeland, Tennessee” passed unanimously with Bunker abstaining.


Special Election Update

As per Tennessee law, opponents to the bond issuance had a 20-day window after the publication of the bond notice on December 16, 2014 to gather 827 signatures (10% of the number of registered Lakeland voters on that date) from registered voters in Lakeland in order to force a referendum on the issue. According to the Shelby County Election Commission, the petition and signatures were delivered to Lakeland as required and subsequently the City of Lakeland delivered them to the Shelby County Election Commission on January 6, 2015.

The Election Commission has 15 days, or until January 21, to certify the signatures. The certification of signatures will be reported to the City of Lakeland and they will determine the timeline as to how things will proceed at that point.   A date for a special election has not been set.


How that $50 million will be spent in building and furnishing Lakeland Prep was detailed in the Lakeland School System’s Five Year Capital Improvement Plan below, also approved by the Board of Commissioners at the December 11 meeting.

LakelandPrep_CIP

Lakeland Prep supporters got a better idea of what $50 million would look like when consultant Southern Educational Services presented a site recommendation and preliminary schematic at the Lakeland School System (LSS) Board meeting on January 5.

The schematic  shows a single academic building situated on the west side of the property with athletic fields primarily clustered on  eastern side along Scotts Creek.

The design emphasizes retaining over 18  acres of green space and natural treeline, including a 2-acre “environmental study area” that is planned to enhance students’ classroom learning.

2015-01-05 18.50.01

Closer view of schematic site plan for Lakeland Prep Project.

Sports facilities at the school show dedicated football, soccer, baseball,  softball, and two practice fields, as well as four tennis courts.

Dr. Jim Mitchell of SES informed the group that of the seven potential sites under consideration, the recommended site met the main criteria of location near major roads, emphasis on natural environment, access to existing utilities and sewer, and price. Mitchell describes the property as the “premier” high school site in Tennessee.

The 94-acre site is offered for a flat $1 million purchase price by the Jones Gilliland Group, LLC., which is also listed on the Shelby County Assessor’s website as the owner of parcels south and west of the Lakeland Prep property.  Mitchell stated that two years ago the property was appraised at $18,000/acre; LSS would be paying approximately $10,600/acre.

Jones Gilliland Group representative Doug Swink, informed the board that the seller is committed to developing the other properties surrounding the school location. Swink commented that he sees area around school rapidly developing along the lines of Franklin, TN.

Mitchell, who had said earlier in the meeting that he felt August 2018 is a more realistic date for the opening of Lakeland Prep, doesn’t see the project as moving too fast. “If you open the school August 5, 2018, that’s more than 3½ years away,” Mitchell reminded the board.

In response to a question by Kevin Floyd about the upcoming bond issue referendum, LSS Board Chair, SES Principal Dr. Tom Fite, advised the board to continue with plans to purchase the property. The next step pending board approval at the January 12 meeting, according to Mitchell, will be a 90-day due diligence period and environmental and zoning reviews.

Also at the work session, LSS Superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell recommended the board approve contracts with A2H & Renaissance Group to provide engineering & architectural services for Lakeland Prep.

Southern Educational Strategies will be facilitating a community input meeting  for Lakeland Prep at 6:30 pm on January 15 at Lakeland Elementary. The event is open to parents, teachers, students, administrators, community members, and business owners and will   include small focus groups to rate importance of school features, such as arts, AP/Honors/STEM classes, instruction, extracurricular activities, sports, etc.

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