This 2018 map illustrates the bus routes for the northern part of the county. These routes are used as a guide in determining enrollment qualifications in Washington County School System in closed enrollment situations.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

It might be a bit more difficult to enroll a student in some Washington County Schools now that the Washington County Board of Education has opted to close enrollment once a school reaches 90 percent capacity.

At a called meeting on Thursday, Jan. 24, the board voted in favor of the motion, made by school board member Todd Ganger. The motion also included closing student enrollment for the future Boones Creek School, which is scheduled to open in August of 2019.

“I would close Boones Creek until we know how many students will be there,” Ganger said.

Students can still apply to one of the closed enrollment schools, but must fill in a form stating the student will be on time and his or her guardian will provide transportation to the requested school. Washington County Schools Director of Attendance James Murphy added that when a student requests to be placed in a specific school outside of his or her district, the principal of that school is always contacted to see if there is room in specific grade levels for those students, no matter the capacity.

When it came to student capacity, board member Philip McLain said Ridgeview Elementary School, which he said was currently at 122 percent capacity, was his main concern.

“If we’re going to overload that school, it’s my fear that the quality of education for the students is going to go down,” McLain said. “I also think it’s a heavier workload on the teaching staff that’s there. That’s my overall concern. How can we put almost 200 students above what we think it should be? How can we keep on sending students in there?”

In November, the board voted to change the bus routes in the northern part of the county in an effort to bring more students to the new Boones Creek School and to relieve Ridgeview of its amount. In those new bus routes, lines were shifted to take 189 students from Ridgeview to place 75 at Gray School, 70 at Sulphur Springs and 44 to the Boones Creek School. Meanwhile 32 students were moved from the Gray School district to the Boones Creek School and 18 were moved from Sulphur Springs to the Boones Creek School.

But if students were shifted to help influx the Boones Creek School, why close enrollment?

Murphy said he has had an overwhelming number of parents asking to enroll their students in new Boones Creek School, which, Murphy said, doesn’t exist in the system just yet.

While county kids outside of the bus route for Boones Creek require a form, Chairman Keith Ervin said a city student would be able to attend the school if they are within the Boones Creek school zone, though he said the county school system would not overlap the city bus routes.

“If there’s a city child that wants to come to the new Boones Creek School and it lives in the Boones Creek zone, then it can come,” Ervin said. “It’s not a county kid; it’s a city kid.”

Board member Jason Day said he felt allowing city students into the school wasn’t fair to students in other Washington County school zones, such as the Jonesborough students, who are yet to see a school renovation plan approved by the Washington County Commission.

“It’s not fair to the Jonesborough kid when their parent wants to take them to the new Boones Creek,” Day said. “They’re county tax payers.”

However, Mitch Meredith asked if kids from Johnson City, including the ones outside of Boones Creek’s bus zone, would be able to come to the new school. Director of Schools Bill Flanary said they would at the county’s discretion. Murphy added that the form would be instrumental in helping the system evaluate if they will accept a new out-of-county student or not.

“We don’t have to take (city) kids,” Flanary said, “but we can.”

Flanary added that the school system plans to send letters out to those who were affected by the new bus routes to see what their plans are for the future — and mostly where the new school is involved.

“We’re going to try to get ahead of it a little bit,” Flanary said. “The staff is going to be sending letters to the families that were involved when you moved the bus routes and actually ask them, ‘What are you going to do? What are your plans?’ If they don’t respond, we’ll call them at home and try to get a real good handle before the end of this school year so that (the board) can budget for this and we can think about moving teachers and be ready day one.”