Commissioner Danny Edens made a motion to pass the plan on to the county Budget Committee. Suzy Williams seconded the motion to pass the scheme, but commissioners Paul Stanton and Lee Chase voted against the motion, causing it to fail.
It was the fourth scheme to be drawn up by architect Tony Street in an attempt to design a Jonesborough K-8 school. The idea behind scheme 4, as presented by Washington County School Board member Mary Beth Dellinger at the board’s regular April meeting, was to build half of a new school now as a K-4 and finish the project out as a K-8 with future funding, possibly by selling current school properties for the funding.
That would phase out the building process and vacate the circular portion of the school that has been the center of debate among school board and community members. Street estimated the project would cost about $17.5 million for the first phase, but committee chairman Tom Krieger said he wasn’t comfortable moving forward with fragments of a plan.
Dellinger, who was present at the meeting, argued that building the school in phases could allow its size to change if enrollment in the county declines.
”We could see exactly what we needed, if the enrollment drops, we may not need the whole area,” she said. “Unlike with Boones Creek, we could see exactly what we need and that would be one advantage.”
Edens made a motion to “accept the plan to see how long it survives,” and Williams seconded the motion. Mayor Dan Eldridge spoke against scheme 4 during the discussion, reasoning that all the plan does is change the shape of the building without adding any capacity. He argued tacking on more classroom space down the road would push the project closer to $30 million.
“We can’t spend $29 million in Jonesborough without another tax increase,” he said. “The idea is we’re spending $20.7 million now with the expectation that shortly down the road there’s going to be this magical appearance of money.”
Even though Williams voted in favor of passing the latest scheme to the budget committee, she said it is disheartening to see decisions come out of the school board by split votes.
“I wish we that had a school board that was united in what they want and got behind (their) director, so we could have a cohesive way our school system is operating,” she said before the vote. “It just bothers me that it’s 5-4 (votes) all the time.”
The school board postponed its regular May meeting this week to May 17.
Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.