After a lengthy discussion and debate on the matter, the Williamson County Board of Education voted 7-5 Tuesday night to approve an open-zoned plan that would allow rising fourth graders and their siblings at Mill Creek Elementary School to stay at the school rather than being rezoned to nearby Nolensville Elementary.

The proposed plan, which was approved along with one that would allow up to 50 students to go from Sunset Elementary to Jordan, came on the heels of the board having voted on April 11 to rezone more than 200 students from the Silver Stream subdivision who attend Mill Creek Elementary to start going to Nolensville Elementary next year.

If all families at Mill Creek chose to apply for out-of-zone status, that would leave 55 students staying at the school instead of going to Nolensville. That would put Mill Creek at 16 over capacity.

“I’m happy with this decision tonight,” said Katie Alred, a mother of three children at Mill Creek Elementary who had spoken at Tuesday’s meeting on the subject. “I think it was the right thing to do to avoid multiple rezones in elementary school. I really did not know which way it was going to go. I think the 7-5 vote was evident it was close.”

Close, and a bit contentious at times. There seemed to be a dividing line among board members who showed compassion toward the Silver Creek families who would have to change schools and those who were more by the book.

“I think it’s very appropriate and necessary that we offer this to the Mill Creek parents and students of rising fourth graders, and they can make a decision,” Candy Emerson, 8th District, said. “I don’t want to be dictating what’s going to happen. This gives them a little bit of wiggle room to make their own choices. It’s their choice, and I think it’s important we allow them to make it.”

Eric Welch, 10th District, countered by saying the board has a job to do when it comes to making the tough decisions.

“I want to be compassionate in this scenario,” he said, “but with all due respect to my colleague Candy, I disagree. We are here to make decisions. We can’t just allow people to come in on their own. That’s the whole point of having zones. If it were a free-for-all, we would start having over capacity at a lot of schools.”

There was disagreement between board members Jay Galbreath and Dan Cash as well.

“This is not something where we’re going above and beyond and giving people everything they want,” said Galbreath, 6th District. “We’re taking them away from the school they’re in proximity to, and this is just kicking them while they’re down.”

Cash, 2nd District, said he took umbrage with the accusation of the board throwing kids under the bus. He said, “That’s not right.  I feel for every child, every parent, but we as a board have to make decisions rather than continual dialog and getting deep down because of this.”

Galbreath and Emerson were among the yes votes, along with Angela Durham, 1st District, Brad Fiscus, 4th, Gary Anderson, 5th, Sheila Cleveland, 7th, and KC Haugh, 11th.

Welch and Cash joined Eliot Mitchell, 3rd, Rick Wimberly, 9th, and Nany Garrett, 12th, in voting no.

Parents with out-of-zone request an apply online through the School Zones page of the WCS website. Deadline to apply is May 15.

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