By MARINA WATERS
The new Boones Creek School is slated to open its doors in 2019, but new life might be restored in the soon-to-be vacated Boones Creek Elementary School site.
At it’s Wednesday, Feb. 27 meeting, the Washington County Board of Education unanimously voted to offer the elementary school site and property to the state to develop a Tennessee Center for Applied Technology. The motion also stated the sale of the property will be subject to the execution of a formal agreement that is yet to be discussed.
TCATs offer post-secondary education and technical job training. The site, should it come to fruition in Washington County, would act as a satellite location to the TCAT in Elizabethton.
“What they have planned at the Boones Creek Elementary site would be for very close area labor market needs,” Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said at the BOE meeting. “I see it as a job creator.”
Though school and county officials say a new technical training facility could be beneficial in the county, a TCAT at the round school building on Christian Church Road has not officially been decided.
“We are in a process to hope that this becomes a reality. I don’t want to get too far out in front of where we are,” Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said. “The board of education took the first step in terms of hurdle clearing in making what will soon be known as the former Boones Creek Elementary School site offered to the state to be used for this TCAT.”
Grandy said the site wouldn’t completely duplicate what’s offered at the Elizabethton site but would supplement it, adding that it would be more convenient to Washington County students.
Board member Mary Beth Dellinger asked during the BOE meeting if Washington County students would have preferential treatment in terms of admission into the technical school. Flanary said he didn’t expect them to.
Though the board unanimously voted to turn the property into a TCAT site, board member Jason Day said he felt the board should “protect” the property while working with the state on the project.
“I think working with them would be great,” Day said. “But I don’t think we ought to give our building away and then our kids won’t have first right. It won’t be just Washington County students.
“I just think we need to protect our property at the end of the day. Work with them any way we can, but protect our property.”
Flanary added that the Tennessee Higher Education Commission indicated it had no interest in leasing the property and aimed for ownership. The director of schools also said as long as the building is used for education, the state would own it, but if it is no longer used or used for anything other than a school, the property goes back to the school board.
Flanary added that the old Green Valley Developmental Center site in Greene County was also being considered as a TCAT location.
Apart from adding workforce eduction opportunities to the area, county and school officials are also hoping to see the “economic engine,” as Flanary called it, in Tennessee’s oldest county.
“(The TCAT would be) a real economic engine. I keep saying that,” Flanary said. “We talked about how stagnant Washington County’s economy has been for so long.
“This is a way you could create tax dollars.”
A meeting to discuss the potential project was held between Flanary, Grandy, TCAT, and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Tuesday, March 5 after press time for the Herald & Tribune.
The county’s Health Education and Welfare Committee is also slated to discuss the potential project at its Thursday, March 7 meeting at 1 p.m. at 100 E Main St., Jonesborough.
The school board will also hold its regularly scheduled meeting on March 7 at 6:30 p.m. at 405 W College St., Jonesborough.