By MARINA WATERS
The Washington County Board of Education might have gone in circles discussing possible Jonesborough School site plans and renovations Thursday night, but no official decision was made regarding the future look of the school.
Tony Street, the school’s architect from Beeson, Lusk and Street Inc., presented two design options at the Oct. 19 meeting; The first still contains the round portion of the school. That plan leaves the county $8,737,000 short. The other design plan, which would include tearing down the round part of the school, leaves the county $10,986,000 short.
If the board opts to keep the round section, Street said the team would “gut” the 41,600 square feet and would rewire, replace the heating and cooling system, add new wall finishes and lights and possibly lower the ceiling.
“We have an opportunity to give this school a new appearance because the new construction will be in front of it,” Street said. “So it will pretty much minimize the exposure of the existing structure. We think it brings the central pieces of the school in good proximity to the classrooms.
Taking into account the geometries we are having to work with here, I think it lays out pretty well.”
It’s the round portion of the school that caused the most discussion.
The circular part was built in 1971 with an open-classroom concept. Closed classrooms were added onto the building in 1982 and 1999.
On Thursday night, many attended the meeting in hopes the board would vote to “tear down the round.”
Though some are concerned with the amount of audible distractions in the round portion of the school, school board member Mary Beth Dellinger and Phillip McLain said they have both received phone calls about asbestos and an odor in the school.
Street said many buildings his firm works with have asbestos and there was no friable asbestos that could become airborne at the school.
“What people truly have a problem with is the open-classroom concept,” Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said. “Within the shape of the building, we’re going to build walls. It eliminates that argument. It’s just a circle that is structurally sound. There will be no more odor to it.”
The board also discussed the academic magnet school in regards to the Jonesborough School.
The magnet is planned to be worked on simultaneously with the Jonesborough School and will be housed in the current Jonesborough Middle School building. Dellinger suggested delaying the magnet school in order to free up funds.
Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said she wants to offer the academic magnet before another system does. She felt it would help with the decline in student enrollment in the county.
“What this magnet school will mean for this county school system will be unprecedented. We are getting unbelievable achievement and growth results this county has never seen before,” Halliburton said. “The magnet will simply add to that.
“We’re in a situation where it’s a drain. We’re continuously losing students; we used to receive aboout $8,900 per student in BEP (basic education program) funding and now we’re down to $8,500 per student because our enrollment continues to decline. We have to offer some specialized programs in order to draw students in.”
McLain voiced his support for the academic magnet while also keeping Jonesborough in mind.
“I’m for the magnet school. I see the benefits of the magnet school,” McLain said. “I also see that with current tax payer dollars that we’re spending, we owe a good school to our students who are our students today. Not just those that we plan to pull to the magnet school.”
Washington County Commissioner Mitch Meredith, who was amongst the crowd at the meeting, said delaying the school by a few years could possibly free up some funds.
Chairman Jack Leonard said the board would be scheduling a joint meeting with the county mayor and members of the county commission’s finance committee to finalize some figures for the Jonesborough School.