Local News

Story published: 10-01-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Facilities needs at county schools will cost $100M

By Karen Sells
Assistant Editor

A $100 million investment over the next decade will be needed to complete a proposed facilities master plan for Washington County schools.

“I don’t want you to look at the price tag and think this can never happen,” School Board Chairman Chad Williams said during a called meeting of the Board of Education on Sept. 26.

Also attending for a presentation of the final version of the plan were city and county commissioners, members of the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen, and Johnson City Board of Education members.

The same group met in July to hear an earlier draft.

The discussion was led by consultant Eric Bosman, of Kimley-Horn and Associates in Atlanta, who worked with Johnson City architect Tony Street to prepare the document.

Bosman, said the plan addresses three major issues: enrollment, capacity and physical needs of facilities, and instructional issues.

According to the research, Washington County had a significant spike in enrollment during the early 2000s, but that has leveled off to less than 1 percent growth per year.

However, Bosman said the county has a very large cohort in the 20-29 age range, which is expected to affect enrollment. “The baby bump will be seen in four years in the K-8 schools,” he said, adding the high schools will begin to feel the crunch by 2025-30.

Comparing the 2012-13 average daily attendance to sizes of the individual schools indicates some are above capacity while others have room to accept more students.

“For the membership as a whole, we are where we need to be now, but that will change soon,” Bosman said.

Based on a walk-through of all the sites, Street said Boones Creek Middle School is definitely in the worst situation.

Four priorities were identified in the final plan. The priority one steps are to select a new Boones Creek school site; build a new K-8 school for 1,100 students; and modify attendance zones between Fall Branch/Sulphur Springs and Jonesborough/Lamar schools to manage enrollment.

Replacing Jonesorough facilities with one new K-8 school for 1,100 students is priority two.

Priority three includes athletic facility upgrades and site improvements at both high schools, and the consideration of athletic sites on the northwest and southwest ends of the county to be shared by the middle schools.

Construction of a new technology center for staff and teacher training, and expansion of the transportation garage and maintenance area are the fourth priority.

Upon completion, all K-8 campuses will be located on single sites, with facilities large enough to meet enrollment projections through 2021, according to the master plan.

In closing, Williams said he wanted to make one point as plans move forward. “We can’t get out of addressing the needs in Boones Creek, whether it’s build a new school or renovate,” he said.

Means of funding for the estimated $95-$115 million needed to implement the master plan were not discussed during the meeting, though Commission Chair Greg Matherly said alternative methods will have to be considered.