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Future growth impacts schools, statistics show

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John Boutwell says he doesn’t make his periodic statistical presentations in the county for fame.  

With his family concentrated in the education arena for many years, he’s simply using statistics—those which he enjoys gathering and sharing—to forecast potential difficulties ahead if the county does not address its population growth, now, in a productive manner.  

That potential weight also falls on the school board on which he’s held a seat for many years. So, recently, Boutwell gave another presentation, backed up by research.  

According to the latest Census report, Bedford County is certainly growing. Perhaps not by leaps and bounds at the moment, but statisticians, Boutwell said, anticipate in the year 2030, that the local student population will be well over 10,000.  

Like it, or not, it’s coming, John Boutwell recently told school board members.  

He said based on comparisons with other counties, Bedford County is right behind Rutherford in its growth potential.  

Boutwell, who has worked closely with Bedford County Government and currently serves on the school board, presented a notebook full of statistics to back up his report.  

School board members and audience learned that based on the latest 2020 Census report, Bedford County’s population has risen from 45,000 to just over 50,000 in the last 10 years.  

Just how that affects the overall ratio of students in say the year 2040, Boutwell advised, that means that approximately 3,084 additional student seats will be required to adequately house the rising student population.  

That means in 2040, it’s estimated by projected Census that there will be 61,073 people living in Bedford County.  

School enrollment is estimated, based on growth patterns, to be over 11,000. Boutwell has said obviously that in 20 years, another board member will be filling his chair.  

But he advised the current school board members that now is the time to prepare for anticipated growth.  

He said in the bigger scheme of things, Tennessee had just over 6.3 million citizens in 2010. Based on the U.S. Census, there now nearly 7 million people living in the Volunteer State.  

“That’s substantial growth . . . imagine being in a town with over 600,000 people. That’s how many people we’ve added in 10 years in Tennessee.”  

From a historical perspective, Boutwell handed out information of how in 1810, Bedford County had over 8,000 residents; in 1950, easily accommodated 23,627 residents.  

Interestingly, the population decreased here in 1960 to 23,150. But the population began picking back up from the 1970s and hasn’t stopped. In 2000, there were over 37,500 people living here, according to Census records.  

While Census reports are fairly accurate, it might be said that some people are sometimes counted twice and others do not get counted for various reasons. So these are estimated numbers at best.  

Bedford County Census officials have said the last 2 years that they’ve been successful getting an accurate head count for those living here.  

Where is the growth in Bedford County?  

As for the incorporated areas, in 2000, Bell Buckle had a population of 391 people. The population in 2020 is 410, based on the latest Census.  

Normandy had 141 residents in 2010 and the 2020 Census reports a population now of 108.  

In 2010, Wartrace had a population of 548 and in 2020, there were 653 people living there.  

Shelbyville has had a population increase of 15.84%, according to the 2020 Census. The Shelbyville population is now at 23,557.  

Outside the City areas, then Bedford County grew at 8.15 percent in the last 10 years. Shelbyville areas are at a significant upswing in growth.  

“The City of Shelbyville grew at twice the rate as the county,” said Boutwell. Boutwell presented a Bedford County area population density map.  

“The northern part of the county is growing . . . 50 to 99.99 people per square mile. In the southwestern part of the county, they have less than 50 [people] per square mile.”  

The school board member reiterated that the growth for Bedford County lies within the Shelbyville City limits. He explained that growth over the last 10 years, based on Census data, is on the eastern side of U.S. 231. He also explained that the southeastern quadrant of U.S. 41A and U.S. 231 is also growing.  

Population by race  

While those numbers can get lengthy, Boutwell said he would just explain that the biggest percentage of growth is within the Hispanic population.  

Growth in other population areas, such as black and white, was steady, he said.  

He said the Census shows that Bedford County’s Hispanic-Latino population continues to grow at high percentages in Shelbyville. He said most of the Hispanic population is concentrated some in western sections of the county but not so much in the eastern side.  

Population by age  

Boutwell said the younger age population is what interests him in all this data, as a school board member.  

“In 2000, our school enrollment here in Bedford County . . .was 5,998 and our Census was 37,586. So if you take 5,998 and as a percentage of the 37,586, that’s 15.9% of the total population enrolled in Bedford County schools.”  

He explained that in 2010, the school enrollment was 7,777 and the population was 45,000. He said that means the school system increased its population by 1,779. That means over 17% of the population was in school.  

As of the 2020 Census report, the county population is now over 50,000.  

School enrollment is about 9,000. So now the enrollment percentage is nearly 18 percent of the population.  

At that point, Boutwell presented school enrollment predictions from the University of Tennessee Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research. 

 In the year 2030, based on current population growth numbers, the Boyd Center estimates that there will be a local population of 55,861.  

In 2040, research shows that Bedford County will reach a population of 61,073. That represents an enrollment in local schools of 17.50% of the expected Census population.  

Those dreaded portables

Boutwell said there are currently 30 portables within the system and this presents a lot of issues—those which the community has likely not identified. That multiplied by a capacity of 25 students, he said, equals to a potential 750 students studying in those outdoor buildings still.  

“With that said, we will need 1,600 more than we have now [in the future.]”  

He said in 18 years, the system will be searching for “brick and mortar” for thousands of more students. The time is at hand to address the numbers coming in the future, he advised. 

Director of Schools Tammy Garrett applauded Boutwell for his presentation and everything he brings to the table. Other board members openly thanked him. 

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