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Design committee examines school layout features


Staff Writer

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When it comes to the future of the Jonesborough School layout, the design committee for the school has a lot of options to consider.

The committee met electronically on Wednesday, May 27, to look over preliminary elements for the school. One of the top aspects considered for the design is accessible student pick up and drop off, which, in most layouts, leads into a large common area that could also be used for large events or gatherings at the school.

“(Civil Engineer Todd Wood) put a lot of work in to try to make sure the flow of the building space, regardless of which option we land on, is functional to the entrance to the building and the drop off, which, we talked about at the last meeting, is a big deal,” Former Town Administrator Bob Browning said. “It’s a major time-saver for parents and for kids in terms of being able to get in and out of school. We’ll continue to work on that.”

Jay McCusker with Ken Ross Architects said he and his team also tried to put specific student groups, such as pre-K and comprehensive development classes (CDC), close to certain parts of the building after hearing from a panel of Washington County School principals and officials. 

“We are also trying to prioritize classrooms,” McCusker said. “For instance, where the CDC classroom is is far more critical than where eighth grade goes. That is going to be something as we move forward will become more important. These prototypes put (CDC students) on the ground floor and we’ve put them at the end of a corridor, but the idea here is to eliminate unnecessary student traffic and it can operate almost as its own pod. We’re hoping that might give them what they need.”

The layouts also prioritize security. 

In addition to camera security, McCusker said, discussions with the Jonesborough Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office largely shaped the layout of the school. 

“These schemes are largely driven by that discussion,” McCusker said. “One of the key components to providing a high level of building security in their minds was to provide a direct line of sight. In this case, we envision a kiosk would be located in the mixing hall at the conjunction of the two corridors. They can look out the front door and you can see the entrance from the bus drop-off and see down both of those corridors. That way if there’s motion where there shouldn’t be motion, they can know about it fairly quickly.”

The committee also talked about future athletic facilities and weighed in on whether or not the school will have a track.

One layout option included a track, but McCusker said in his team’s preliminary research, most elementary schools don’t utilize a track, but the decision would be up to the committee. He also said if needed, the current track at Jonesborough Middle School could be repaved and used for the school as well, though the Town of Jonesborough’s plan is to use the track as part of a future park.

School board member Todd Ganger said he felt a track is a vital aspect and should be a part of the school design.

“I personally feel like we do need a track,” Ganger said. “I know a lot of our kids go out there during PE and walk the track. We have programs like Girls On The Run and things like that. I think we need one. I’d like to run that through (the school board’s) athletics committee and see what the consensus is and see if that is something we need as a board.”

Other activity spaces at the school were considered in the design.

Jonesborough Elementary School art teacher Jan Allen asked McCusker if it would be possible to move the stage from the gym. McCusker said they have considered that option after examining Boones Creek’s gym which includes a stage. He added that performances could be held at the town’s McKinney Center and future Jackson Theatre. Allen said it might be difficult to conduct school functions and assemblies and utilize the stage while it’s in the gym.

“I don’t know how that would be combined in one area,” Allen said. “There are so many times when the gym is being used when the stage area needs to be used.”

At the committee’s meeting last month, McCusker mentioned that the site could also have space for additional programing such as an agricultural building or center. Washington County Commissioner Jodi Jones asked about how specific aspects of the school, whether that be STEM, arts or agriculture, could become part of the design.

“I’m really excited about the potential of this town and county partnership as a novel way of developing a school and the property around it and building something bigger than the school,” Jones said. “The topic of the school being a magnet school for the arts or something that’s really special and different has been discussed a few different times … How do we set a marker for that physically in the building so its purpose and vision is really visual and tangible?”

McCusker said he felt getting direction from the school district on what its goals are would be the first step.

“We’ve seen a lot of support for these types of programs,” McCusker said. “I think that if we’re going to do that, we would need to settle what the ultimate goal is and then figure out what we can accomplish with the budget we have.”

The next Jonesborough School Design Committee meeting is set for Wednesday, June 24, at 4 p.m. Those meetings are tentatively scheduled for the last Wednesday of each month and are currently being conducted electronically.