Washington County marked the completion of the new elementary/middle school in grand fashion on Saturday, giving parents and students a preview of the massive new school ahead of the new school year, which will start on Monday. As Senior Reporter Robert Houk reported, the $28 million facility is so large — 133,000 square feet — that Director of Schools Bill Flanary awarded Principal Jordan Hughes a skateboard to navigate between wings.
While the new building took right at two years to build, school officials had been making the case for replacing the old elementary school and middle school for more than a decade. The 80-year-old middle school, formerly Boones Creek High School, was especially inadequate.
To say the opening is a relief is an understatement.
Sadly, Jonesborough area students can’t share in that sentiment. Housed in similar buildings, they’ve been held hostage by politics between the Board of Education and the County Commission for four years now.
While spending $28 million in Boones Creek, county officials dubbed a totally new Jonesborough school out of financial reach. So they have tried to update existing facilities over the objections of some parents. Concept after concept has been proposed then either retracted or rejected.
Meanwhile, construction costs have inflated. So have egos.
And the kids just wait.
An entire set of students has matriculated through Jonesborough Elementary School since county officials began discussing ways to upgrade the schools in 2013. By the time the doors open on modern facilities — new or renovated — many will be in high school, even if a plan were approved today.
We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve called on commissioners and school board members to end the sophomoric stalemate. In February 2018, we advocated a marathon joint session between the two boards to resolve the issue. At this point, we’d expect County Mayor Joe Grandy would have to gather cots, pillows and blankets and stock up on bottled water and pizza coupons. Sheriff Ed Graybeal might even offer a lasso.
Jonesborough parents should have zero confidence that such a dysfunctional county government will have a firm plan in 2019, but they should still demand it. If parents need a little more motivation, touring Boones Creek’s new school might be the charm.