By MARINA WATERS
For the past year, the Washington County Board of Education has been going round and round over a Jonesborough School project decision. But now, it’s more of a standstill.
The school board voted on Scheme 3, the design plan to make renovations and additions to the current Jonesborough Middle School building to create a K-8 school. The motion failed 5-4. School board members Todd Ganger, Jack Leonard, Clarence Mabe and Mike Masters were in favor. School board members Annette Buchanan, Mary Beth Dellinger, Keith Ervin, David Hammond and Phillip McLain were opposed.
“This scheme is in budget and creates a K-8 school instead of just a K-4 school to be added onto,” Leonard said. “We have a scheme that will take care of K-8. You’re talking about common sense — that’s common sense.”
Prior to Thursday’s school board meeting, the Scheme 4 plan to made additions and renovations to the current Jonesborough Elementary School building to create a K-4 school, which would later be completed as a K-8 school, passed in a 5-4 vote by the board. However, it was voted down by the Washington County Commission’s Health Education and Welfare Committee.
County officials have also suggested reducing the tax levy from the latest county tax increase due to the school project gridlock and holding off on purchasing the McCoy property, which is adjacent to the current Jonesborough Elementary School building.
Scheme 3 is the only K-8 design plan within the county’s allotted $20,750,000 for the project. For some board members, Scheme 3 was also a way to secure funding and the property that could be used for a road to a future Jonesborough as well as potential athletic facilities.
“We’ve got something that’s paid for, we’re still providing for all the kids, plus we are still going to take care of our facility needs down the way, we’re still purchasing the McCoy property with Scheme 3 — which everyone wants for future ball fields and a road,” Leonard said. “I’ve lived in Jonesborough for 55 years. I went to those schools and I know, more than a lot of people on this board who didn’t go to Jonesborough, what is needed.
“The big argument that was brought to us from the Jonesborough parents was ‘get us out of the round.’ What does Scheme 3 do for you? It gets you out of the round. That was your big argument.”
Other board members disagreed, however.
McLain said he still thought the reduced version of Scheme 2, Scheme 2A, which would tear down the round and make renovations and additions to the current elementary school, was the best option.
“I cannot wrap my mind around putting a two-story building within 10 or 12 feet of the edge of the football field with no other sports area of any kind and where 935 kids have to go,” McLain said. “I would much rather see 2A — reduce some classrooms, do some redistricting and make it fit the budget. You’d tear down the round and build some new wings.”
Ervin said he still thinks the board should hold off on the project while Hammond, who recently suggested the board enter an inter-local agreement to acquire funds from handing over the deed to one of the Boones Creek properties to the county, said he stands by his desire to have a commitment that Scheme 4 would result in a full K-8
“I don’t want to sit there with a K-4 school for years either. And then, we’ve got escalating costs, different leadership and no follow through with that commitment. I want a commitment.”
Following the discussion, Mabe asked the board during round table where this left the project — and where failing to come to a decision leaves the project.
“Where are we now with Jonesborough? I’d like to have something done before I leave here,” Mabe said. “But what are we saying to the commission? Are we saying this option, that option, we don’t want options, or we’re going to wait two years? I don’t understand. Where are we? What do we want to do?”
The next BOE meeting will be held Thursday, June 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education’s Central Office located at 405 W College St., Jonesborough.