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Enrollment closed at four ‘near-capacity’ schools in county

Washington County Board of Education members voted to close enrollment at four near-capacity elementary and middle schools, but refused to take away county students’ choice of which high school they attend.
Keith Ervin was the only board member to oppose closing enrollment at Boones Creek and Jonesborough elementary and middle schools, saying he didn’t like the thoughts of families with children in the same grade range having to attend different schools.
In an effort to make the transition easier, a two-year moratorium was included in the motion. Students from other zones who are currently enrolled in those schools will be grandfathered in and their siblings will have a two-year period during which they can enroll before they must move to the schools within their busing boundaries.
Beginning with the 2015-16 academic year, no new enrollment from any students outside of the assigned zone for each of the schools will be allowed.
Director of Schools Ron Dykes made the original recommendation during the July 30 meeting of the Facilities Committee after presenting a report of building capacity versus spring semester student population at each facility. “I think it would be prudent to close enrollment at those four schools,” he said.
Board member Todd Ganger broadened the recommendation with a motion to close enrollment at all county schools, which he said could be helpful as the BOE continues to develop a long-range educational plan.
Ganger’s motion was approved by the Facilities Committee but failed in a vote by the full board, with the main objection related to the different programs offered by Daniel Boone and David Crockett high schools.
Board member David Hammond noted many students are entering the workforce after graduation rather than attending college.
“I have to think if a Washington County student is about to start high school and a vocational program is not available, we’re handicapping that student,” he said.
The freshman year can be a difficult age for a number of reasons, according to Vice Chair Chad Williams, whose daughters attended Crockett even though they are zoned for Boone. “They thrived, and we were glad to have the opportunity,” Williams said, giving his personal experience as the reason he could not support closing enrollment at the high schools.
Williams then made a motion, seconded by Hammond, to approve Dykes’ recommendation to close enrollment in Boones Creek and Jonesborough schools.
Following the BOE’s action during the Aug. 1 meeting, the only county schools with open enrollment are West View, Sulphur Springs, South Central and Fall Branch elementary schools, and the two high schools.
Hammond asked when the board will be redrawing the bus boundary lines.
“I think you need to look at it soon, but I don’t think the lines would be redrawn until you have a new school,” Dykes answered.
A facilities master plan under consideration proposes construction of a K-8 campus in Boones Creek by 2016 and another in Jonesborough by 2018.