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Commissioner asks if two new schools would be better choice

A look at renovations needed to extend the life of the town’s schools for another 10-15 years had at least one commissioner asking if the county should build two new K-8 facilities.
During a joint meeting with county commission and school board members on March 19, architect Tony Street outlined more than $7 million in improvements to Jonesborough Elementary and Middle schools.
Included in the estimates for both buildings are new roofs, gas boilers, HVAC controls, lockers, door hardware, additional security at the main entrances and a new drive around the property that would relieve traffic congestion and provide covered unloading canopies.
“Something that has really bothered me is we would be doing a lot of cosmetic things that won’t really improve classroom learning,” Commissioner Tom Krieger said during the meeting held at Jonesborough Elementary School.
“We’re sitting on a valuable piece of property that could be developed. I raise the question of whether we shouldn’t revise our plans and build two new K-8 facilities.”
Mayor Dan Eldridge said the county’s limited fiscal capacity is the answer to that question.
According to the facilities master plan, Boones Creek Middle School was built in 1939, and Jonesborough Middle School was constructed a decade later in 1950. Both elementary schools were built in 1971.
While additions were made to the schools over the years, the last renovations for all four were completed in 1998.
The original master plan listed purchase of property and construction of a new K-8 facility in Boones Creek by 2016 as the first priority, with a new K-8 in Jonesborough by 2018 as the second priority.
The commission approved a new site and joint facility for Boones Creek, but asked the Board of Education to determine what would be required to continue using the schools in Jonesborough for another 10-15 years.
During the February Budget Committee meeting, Director of Schools Ron Dykes confirmed the Jonesborough schools were not currently experiencing or expecting to have any problems with student capacity, while the Boones Creek schools are over capacity and expecting more.
Yet at last week’s meeting, Dykes said Jonesborough Elementary is at capacity now.
Street reminded the group his costs are only estimates, and the final expense for the refurbishments won’t be known until the projects are designed. In addition, continued maintenance will be required for both buildings.
“I certainly covet your input,” he said. “Now is the time.”
While Street said it would be possible to work on the projects simultaneously, the timeline to complete the job could be up to three summers.