The McKinney Center in Jonesborough. (Photo by Lee Talbert)
The state Fire Marshal has granted the town of Jonesborough a certificate of occupancy for the McKinney Cultural Arts Center at Booker T. Washington School, allowing classes that were moved off-site in July to resume.
Town Operations Manager Craig Ford told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday that sidewalks to the center’s front and rear handicap exits are finished, the building’s sprinkler and alarm systems are functioning and both systems have passed final inspection by the fire marshal’s office.
“The building itself is ready for use at this time,” Ford said.
Furnishings are being moved in and classes at the center resumed last week on an evening and Saturday schedule.
The last of the construction work is being done during regular weekday working hours and is expected to be completed within the next two weeks, Ford said.
In addition to the emergency exits and alarm and sprinkler systems, Ford said renovation of the center’s final classroom and work on its heating and air conditioning systems is done.
Work yet to be completed includes the installation of shelving for the classrooms, construction of a stairway and a sidewalk on the west side of the building, final grading of the parking lot and grounds and paving and landscaping.
Rachel Conger, director of Jonesborough’s Parks and Recreation Department, said plans are being made for a grand opening at the center at a time when the McKinney family can be present.
“I hope this will be a huge event ... well attended by the community,” Conger said.
Built in 1939 as a segregated school for Jonesborough’s African-American students, the building has been completely renovated over the past two years for use as a cultural and performing arts center named in honor of the late Earnest McKinney and his son, Kevin.
Earnest McKinney, a teacher and principal in Washington County and Johnson City schools, was the first African-American elected to serve on Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen and on the Washington County School Board. Kevin McKinney was also elected to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and later became the first African-American elected mayor of Jonesborough. Kevin and his brother now live outside of the area while their mother continues to reside in Jonesborough.
This spring, with the center’s renovations nearing completion, the state fire marshal agreed to a special emergency response plan that allowed the town to use the building for a couple of large gatherings conducted in May and June.
The building was opened for a performance of a play produced by Washington County students taking part in the center’s Mary B. Martin Performing Arts program and for an open house premiere of the Jonesborough Juried Art Show, which drew an estimated 400 people to the center.
While firefighters and emergency vehicles were stationed at the building during the large gatherings, in July the state fire marshal requested the town halt summer programming at the center after state inspectors observed children inside the building without the sprinkler and fire alarm systems in place and without emergency responders on hand.