By COLLIN BROOKS
Washington County students were welcomed back to their first full day of school on Friday, August 5. But a certain buzz surrounded the Boones Creek schools, especially when the students at Boones Creek Middle School were welcomed with a highlighted reminder on their main entrance.
The white sheet taped on the bright red doors was a print-out of a specially called Washington County Board of Education meeting that has been set for Wednesday, August 10. The most pressing item, highlighted by a bright yellow marker, was “land site for new Boones Creek K-8 School.”
Boones Creek Middle School Principal Mike Edmonds said that the piece of paper is a hopeful reminder that the process of a new Boones Creek school is close to an ending point.
“I believe that this coming Wednesday night the school board will reach a decision; it may not be a unanimous decision, but they will reach a decision on a school location,” he said.
During the board of education’s August meeting, a 56-acre site known as the Williams property — which sits on the corner of Boones Creek Road and Highland Church Road — was voted down for a third time. Board member David Hammond requested a special called meeting for Wednesday so the board could vote again on the property.
Since that time a new piece of property has been uncovered. Property owner Clyde Carter confirmed to the Herald & Tribune that he had been approached by architect Tony Street, who represents the Washington County Board of Education, about the 87 acres he owns located behind the Food City in Boones Creek that runs along Carroll Creek Road.
Carter said that no price has been discussed, nor had Street told him how much of the property — which sits about a half-a-mile from the current Boones Creek Middle School — the school board was interested in as of Tuesday afternoon.
The only possible hangup for the site — which school board members could only confirm as rumor — is that it sits inside Johnson City limits. Only one other site of the more than 25 that have been examined rested within city boundaries.
That issue of building a county school within the Johnson City limits is something that Washington County Chairman Todd Ganger said would be a hold-up for any potential property.
“I absolutely would not support it if it’s in the city already,” said Ganger, who has voted for the Williams property each time. “That is just me. I just don’t feel like that would be wise on our part, in my opinion.”
Hammond was the deciding vote on whether the property would be approved, after being absent during a 4-4 vote in June. However, he voted down (5-4) the property during the second vote in July, noting that he would like 30-60 more days to make sure this was the right location. Since then, two more properties have been presented to the school board during their August meeting, with the Carter property — a third — expected to be brought to the board during their August 10 meeting.
Ganger said that a decision needs to be made sooner rather than later, if the Washington County Board of Education wants to meet one of their goals.
“If we plan on opening up a school by 2019, then it is very important to get a site selected, if not (Wednesday) night, then very soon there afterwards,” Ganger said. “We can’t keep pushing it back and pushing it back and have the opportunity to open in 2019. Mr. Street has made it clear that we have to get moving on this thing if the goal is to open in 2019.”
Hammond agreed with him, during an interview on Friday afternoon.
“The county commission went ahead and approved the funding of it and we just need to act on it as soon as possible, but not just take the first piece of property that comes our way,” Hammond said.
If a site is selected within the ensuing weeks, there is a chance that the 5th grade group, that was welcomed into the doors of Boones Creek Middle School with that board agenda taped to it, will be the first 8th grade class to roam the halls of the newly constructed school, wherever that may be.