When the Washington County Commission approved the Washington Way plan, it meant the forthcoming Jonesborough K-8 school and academic magnet school projects would have to share the $20 million allocated for both projects.
Washington County Board of Education initially voted to renovate Jonesborough Elementary school instead of building a new one.
That might not be the case going forward.
After community members began advocating to “tear down the round” at board meetings and on social media, board members and Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton began reexamining the decision to renovate the existing school.
She had expressed reluctance about delaying the magnet school at that meeting, citing concerns about charter schools coming to the county if the plan is delayed. But she has since spoken with concerned parents of Jonesborough Elementary School students.
“I did not know the parents felt that strongly or passionate about it because the board had already voted on it, and no one had expressed any concern about keeping the round part so I was caught off-guard by the response,” she said.
Halliburton said she would like to shift focus to make sure future facility projects for the county are adequately equipped moving forward. While she said she still has some concerns regarding charter schools establishing a foothold in the county, it is not her top priority right now.
Board member Mary Beth Dellinger, who represents Jonesborough on the board, had reservations with the plan from the beginning, and has since promised she will do what she can to make sure Jonesborough gets a new school instead of a renovated one.
At a called meeting last month, board members considered options for budgeting a new school, one of which was to delay the academic magnet school in order to push more funding to the Jonesborough project. Dellinger made a motion to officially delay the magnet school at that meeting, and while she withdrew the motion, the idea is still resonating with the board as members consider what to do moving forward.
Halliburton said the motion took her off-guard, and has since had some time to think about what would be best to do moving forward.
“I am certainly OK with delaying the magnet if it means getting a better K-8 school for Jonesborough,” Halliburton said Thursday. “What I do want, for myself, the board and the community, is to focus on is the educational programming we offer for our students.”
Whether the board votes to keep the building or tear it down, both options are over the allocated budget. Halliburton said she hopes she and the board will be able to get some financial direction at a workshop with the county budget committee scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m.
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