Plan could bring changes to Washington County schools

Nathan Baker • Jul 25, 2013 at 9:59 PM

In the next 10 years, Washington County schools could see major changes if Board of Education members approve a plan proposed Thursday evening by hired consultants.

Eric Bosman, a consultant working for Atlanta-based Kimley-Horn and Associates, delivered a $100 million plan to Washington County Board of Education members to deal with aging buildings, inadequate facilities and encroaching annexation over the next decade.

“Our recommendation would be that, particularly in the Boones Creek and Jonesborough areas, we’re putting money into facilities right now that are not adequately meeting the needs of our students,” Bosman told board members. “Some of those needs were yesterday’s needs and we need to move quickly in order to rectify those from an educational quality standpoint.”

Bosman and Tony Street, a Johnson City architect, said the most pressing need of the district is a new school to replace Boones Creek elementary and middle schools.

Both schools are outdated and overcrowded, they said, and a 1,100-student combined K-8 school located to the north of the current buildings would move the students out of the likely path of annexation by Johnson City.

“I don’t think it’s really too much of a mystery that currently most of the potential growth (for the city) is off of the Boones Creek exit,” Street said. “I know that the city has not too long ago acquired property ... and my guess is that if growth continues in that area, that it’s very likely we may see a new school there by the city.”

The proposed plan also includes a new combined school for students in the Jonesborough elementary and middle schools on the land currently occupied by the schools.

“There are portions of those facilities that are functional, there are portions of those facilities — particularly Jonesborough Elementary School — that need significant renovation, and the cost of that renovation will likely be as much as a new facility,” Bosman said. “Replacing Jonesborough Elementary, particularly the round school from the ’60s, is both a facility and educational concern that needs to be rectified.”

The proposed master plan also includes $14 million in upgrades to the sports facilities at Daniel Boone and David Crockett high schools, and building two new athletic and recreation sites to be shared by K-8 schools to the north and southwest of the county at an estimated cost of $9 million.

A new technology center and an expanded bay at the school district’s transportation garage are part of the plan, too, but Bosman said they were less pressing than the two new facilities.

Bosman said the district can plan on taking two years for each school to be built, and several more for the remaining projects, allowing the funding for the capital projects to be stretched over the next 10 years.

Board of Education Chairman Clarence Mabe said the proposed plan was something the board would take under consideration.

“They showed us what our biggest issues are and gave us options for solving them,” he said. “It may sound like a lot of money to spend, but we’ve known about some of these problems for a while. At this point, I don’t think we can afford not to.”

Director of Schools Ron Dykes said he expects challenges to arise over the years, but said he was glad officials from the city and county governments attended the meeting.

“It’s pretty rare to have the city manager, both mayors and the city and county commissions together with the school board studying this situation,” Dykes said. “I’m extremely appreciative of their participation. I think it was desperately needed.”

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