Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

School board’s comments surprise committee

Despite a facilities master plan discussion that has been underway for more than a year, commissioners and school board members did not seem to be on the same page during last week’s Budget Committee meeting.
Architect Tony Street provided a breakdown for the proposed K-8 school in Boones Creek, which includes almost $27 million for construction, $2 million for the athletic facilities and another $1.6 million for land acquisition.
“There is always a fine line in estimating a project without a site,” Street said. “We would like to get under this number, but I think it’s a good target.”
Director of Schools Ron Dykes said Street is looking for a site closer to the heart of Boones Creek at the request of the Board of Education.
That site should be in a location that offers opportunities for private business to locate and grow the tax base, according to Mayor Dan Eldridge.
Commissioner Joe Grandy asked the cost of equipping the facility for smart school technology, and Street said the hardware and WIFI is already included in the construction cost.
Dykes said the technology would run $3,500 per classroom.
“I appreciate you boys talking about smart technology, but I can’t vote for smart boards in this school if we don’t have them in the others,” BOE member Keith Ervin said.
Budget Committee members questioned his reasoning. “If you were going to build a new barn, would you put in old equipment?” Commissioner Todd Hensley asked.
Ervin said it would not be fair to the students attending other schools in the county that have less technology.
Chairman Todd Ganger added BOE members have not had an opportunity to discuss the specifics.
Grandy asked for a clarification on that comment. “My thought process is that where we’re headed has already been vetted by your board,” he said.
“I don’t recall a conversation about all schools being brought up to a standard, and now I’m hearing you say you need to meet again.”
Dykes said it would be the BOE’s decision on what technology is placed in the classrooms.
“It impacts the funding,” Grandy pointed out. “When are we going to be able to get some numbers?”
Eldridge said the Budget Committee is trying to identify the amount Washington County can reasonably expect to borrow and support. The next phase of the plan was the construction of a new K-8 to replace the elementary and middle schools in Jonesborough, he noted.
“We can’t borrow that much if we wanted to,” Eldridge said. “What we have agreed to is [Dykes] is going to work with the Board of Education to determine what capital improvements are needed to make those facilities usable for the next 10 years.”
Eldridge said all of these questions must be answered and factored in before the county heads for the bond market.
“My goal would be this,” he said to the committee members. “Get the information from the Board of Education next month regarding (maintaining) the Jonesborough facilities for the next 10 years. Get a budget that the commission could approve, and let the school board loose on designing a plan that will come back for approval.”
Eldridge said approval of the plan also would depend on the county commission’s willingness to exhaust its debt capacity.
Grandy made a motion to continue the process toward a new K-8 in Boones Creek using the estimates Street presented as a baseline. Hensley seconded the motion, which passed with unanimous approval.