Washington County Board of Education votes to 'tear down the round,' plan heads to committees

Jessica Fuller • Updated Dec 7, 2017 at 9:49 PM

A plan to build a new Jonesborough K-8 school emerged from the Washington County Board of Education’s Thursday night meeting, but not all board members were confident the over-budget plan would be passed by the County Commission.

Architect Tony Street brought a third plan to the board’s last meeting of the year on Thursday, but the board ultimately rejected it in favor of “tearing down the round” and rebuilding the 40-year-old, saucer-shaped portion of the school. 

Unimpressed with the third plan, which was to renovate the existing Jonesborough Middle School and add on to it to create the future facility, board members rejected a motion 5-4 made by Keith Ervin to table the issue until next month. Ervin made the motion to put off considering the third scheme, which was presented at the Finance Committee’s meeting Wednesday night, because he said one day wasn’t enough time for him to consider the new plan. 

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger said she didn’t think moving plans to the middle school building was any more fair, and maintained that Jonesborough students deserve a new school like Boones Creek students. 

“I just can’t get very excited about it,” Dellinger said. “The first one was going to be a redo of the round building, and this one is going to be a redo of the 75-year-old building, I just don’t think either one are that acceptable.” 

Time was another concern, and board members are running out of it if the school is to open its doors in the fall of 2020. Street said that while delaying a decision by one month probably wouldn’t be detrimental, he estimated a three-month delay would push the opening date back a year. 

Dellinger made a motion to approve a plan eliminating the creation of a magnet school and in which the existing elementary school is torn down and replaced Since the board would be changing the needed funding by eliminating the magnet school, the plan would have to go through the County Commission’s Health, Education and Welfare and Budget committees before making it to the County Commission’s January meeting.

Those committees have already had their December meetings, so the plans would have to pass through their January meetings before reaching the commission’s January meeting. Board members discussed having a called meeting with those committees next week in the hope of speeding up the process. But some still weren’t optimistic the plan would get through the County Commission and would bring the issue back to square one since the project would still be about $3 million over the budget, even without the magnet school.

“They’re (the County Commission) not going to approve it, that’s just the facts of life,” board member Mike Masters said during discussion. “I agree with what’s being said tonight, but whatever we approve it’s got to go over our heads.” 

Dellinger’s motion build a new school passed 5-4 with Masters, Todd Ganger, Clarence Mabe and Chairman Jack Leonard voting against the motion. During the discourse, board members also discussed possible resolutions to the budgetary issues they would face by building a new school. 

David Hammond suggested moving Asbury and Midway academies to one facility to cut costs in addition to selling the old Boones Creek facilities to make up for the deficit. 

In an attempt to speed things along, the board marked Dec. 13 as a tentative date for a called meeting with the Budget and Health, Education and Welfare committees in hopes of having the plan considered by the County Commission at its Dec. 18 meeting.

Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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