By MARINA WATERS
The Jonesborough School project didn’t appear on the Washington County Board of Education’s meeting agenda for its regularly scheduled Thursday, June 7 meeting, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the center of discussion with numerous motions made during the board’s facility committee report.
The only Jonesborough School decision that received the nine-member board’s stamp of approval was board member Clarence Mabe’s motion for the project’s architect, Tony Street, to revisit his Scheme 2A plan to make renovations and additions to the current Jonesborough Elementary School which also includes demolishing the circular part of the school. But this time around, Mabe asked that Street reduce the cost down to the budgeted $20,750,000 for the project without redistricting the Jonesborough area to reduce enrollment at the K-8 school.
“I’m a doer. I’m not one that sits around and twiddles their thumb and says, ‘What’s going to happen?’ Let’s get something done, “ Mabe said. “We’ve been here two years and we’ve got 5-4 on the only ones that the county commission will pass. They’re not going to do the others. So let’s make a move.”
The board’s approval didn’t pass the plan along to the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee just yet, but in considering reducing the project’s plan — and after having already reduced the scheme once prior —Street reminded the board of the two ways to reduce the project’s costs.
“I made a statement a long time ago that there are two basic ways to reduce costs; one is to either reduce size or reduce quality,” Street said. “I’m going to disagree a little with what Mr. Mabe said, but to get this thing in budget, we’re going to have to reduce the number of students.
“We can’t handle but about 650 students in the money we’ve got. And I know that would put some students elsewhere, but that’s kind of where I see it at the moment.”
The Scheme 2A plan, which Street will soon reduce, is currently priced at $24,371,000 and would consist of 41 classrooms. Scheme 2, the plan from which Scheme 2A was drawn, was previously priced at $26,802,000 and consists of 47 classrooms. At 20 students per classroom Scheme 2A, at it’s current projected size, would have room for 820 students.
In response to the call for a possible student reduction at the school, board member Phillip McLain suggested the school district’s interim director and central office staff consider redistricting the Jonesborough area.
“In all of these discussions, looking at redistricting around Jonesborough has been brought up,” McLain said. “I think we should start looking at it in an attempt to reduce the student count at Jonesborough K-8 — I’m going to go ahead and call it a K-8.
“Let’s start looking at it to see how many rooms Lamar has and how many rooms West View has and how much extra space there’s going to be in the new Boones Creek School, perhaps. If we could trim some off in two or three directions, we could get it back to where Tony could build it for $20 million.”
Some board members, however, had reservations about trimming the Jonesborough district due to the capacity imbalance is could cause at Washington County’s two high schools, David Crockett High School and Daniel Boone High School.
“That’s a bad idea to redistrict Jonesborough,” board member Todd Ganger said. “If you redistrict there, you’re telling me you’re going to now send Crockett kids to a Boone school and have those kids go to Boone because you’re going to redistrict them to the new Boones Creek, which we should be saving for new enrollment kids within the Ridges, Highland Gate and everywhere like that. It’s the biggest and best feeder you’ve got going into Crockett and you’re wanting to downsize it. Bad idea.”
The board also voted on the Scheme 3 plan to make additions and renovations to the current Jonesborough Middle School, but the motion failed 5-4.
Ganger said Street updated the facilities committee on the “issues” some had with the Scheme 3 plan; Ganger said all plumbing would be new, the building would be approximately 60 feet from the edge of the track and the adjacent McCoy property would be purchased in the plan.
Scheme 3 doesn’t include plans for the elementary school building, which posed some concerns from board members who expressed a desire to have the round portion of the building torn down. Meanwhile, other board board members suggested utilizing the elementary school building for Asbury School graduations or for other district needs.
“The structure of that building — there’s nothing wrong with it. It is a good, structurally sound building,” Ganger said. “I don’t think you tear down buildings that are structurally sound like that. I think this system could use that building as a meeting place for professional development. We could use it as a meeting place. We have meetings we have to take to other places because we don’t have anywhere currently.”
However, board members favored the idea of reducing the Scheme 2A plan at the elementary school to fit the project’s budget over the Scheme 3 plan at the middle school.
“(Revisiting Scheme 2A) is going to give the people in Jonesborough more of what they told us they wanted at their town hall meeting,” Board member Mary Beth Dellinger said. “They did not favor Scheme 3. They want something almost comparable to Boones Creek. It’s not going to be comparable, but something they can be proud of.”
The board also considered reverting to a previous plan regarding the Jonesborough Schools.
After the Scheme 3 discussion, Ganger made the motion to renovate the elementary school and middle school and use the remainder of the funds for Boone and Crockett’s stadiums, saying that for those who want to wait on the school project, the suggestion would “buy the time.”
McLain said he’d like to reexamine that previous plan. The board later opted to table the motion in a 5-4 vote.
Street said that original plan included using $5 million on each of Jonesborough’s elementary and middle schools, but that those costs could be higher now. He also said he’d need around six weeks to get plans ready for the stadium’s renovations.
“This board is well aware we have to do something with the stadium and the seating,” Ganger said. “As many times as we’ve talked about it on the five-year facilities plan, it’s become an issue.”
Among split votes and numerous suggestions, multiple board members also expressed chagrin regarding the indecision from the BOE saying, as board member David Hammond put it, that the school board “wants a K-8 yesterday”. And some, like Mabe, don’t see that decision on the horizon.
“I was hoping that we’d make a decision tonight,” Mabe said. “Most of us will not be here when that decision is made. I can promise you that.”
The next BOE meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education Central Office, 405 W College Street, Jonesborough.