By MARINA WATERS
“I think it’s befitting to say who this school is being built for,” Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said, surrounded by the crowd awaiting the groundbreaking for the new Boones Creek School site.
“We’re certainly building this school for our staff. We’re certainly building this school for the community, but you know who we’re really building this school for? We’re building this school for these boys and girls that we serve in this community. And I want you to know that it’s an absolute blessing and honor for me to serve as your director of schools. You are our most treasured possessions.”
The Monday, July 17, groundbreaking ceremony for the new K-8 school included county commissioners, parents, school board members and future Boones Creek School students. While some came with hard hats and shovels in-hand, they all came ready to see a plan that Halliburton said received momentum under former director of schools Ron Dykes more than five years ago.
“Today, I think all of us here feel like we finally got there (in building a new school),” Washington County Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said. “But really today is not the finish line —today is the starting line.”
The new school is projected to accommodate 900 students in a one-level, 142,000 square-foot building that will set on the 56-acre site. The new Boones Creek School also serves as the first part of the Washington Way plan that includes a new Jonesborough K-8 school and a transformation to turn the current Jonesborough Middle School site into a renovated academic magnet school.
It’s this transformation that Halliburton is looking forward to seeing, starting with the site on Boones Creek Road.
“Our new state-of-the-art facility will create a new era in Washington County,” Halliburton said. “A new school can be transformative to a community. And I firmly believe this is the beginning of that transformation of our school district. This is the piece of the Washington Way. It’s the beginning piece that will make our school system even better.”
Boones Creek Elementary and Boones Creek Middle were first built in 1971 and 1939. Halliburton mentioned during her speech at the groundbreaking that the middle school that was completed in 1939 was funded thanks in part to President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Since that time, the new Boones Creek School and this new “era” in the county didn’t come without it’s obstacles, however.
Washington County Board of Education Chairman Jack Leonard recalled the discussions regarding the site of the new school that sent the BOE back to the drawing board numerous times. After a 4-4 draw, a 5-4 vote against and finally a 5-4 vote in favor of the Williams property as the new home of the Boones Creek School, Leonard spoke on the board’s ability to back the project.
“I’d also like to thank the school board. As everyone is aware, it took many votes for us to come to a decision. Some of us were not for this piece of property — and I was one of them,” Leonard said. “Once it was approved, I said, “let’s move forward and let’s get this completed” because in a democracy, majority rules. I backed the decision that had been taken. I am now glad that I did because I believe that we are moving forward and we are going to help our community. We’re going to help Washington County. And we’re going to help our children.”
It’s those children, from the site’s future first class of kindergarteners to the K-8’s middle-school age students, who all had a part in the groundbreaking. But before Dykes, Halliburton and each school board member also grabbed their shovels, Leonard had one final statement about the unity he believes a project such as Boones Creek School offers the county.
“The school board is made up of very many members. We’re diverse, we come from different parts of the county, but there’s one thing that holds us all together. We’re Washington ountians,” Leonard said. “And we work together as Washington Countians to make Washington County number one.
“My goal is to when I travel around the state they’ll say, ‘Oh, I’ve heard of that school system. I heard of that brand new school you built. I hear about those wonderful things you are doing.’
“And I feel like that’s exactly what’s going to happen with Washington County Schools.”