Is redistricting the answer to getting a Jonesborough K-8 school?

Jessica Fuller • May 17, 2018 at 11:52 PM

Back at square one with the proposed Jonesborough K-8 plans, the Washington County Board of Education left another meeting without a plan moving forward — though one member suggested a look at redrawing school districts.

During the facilities committee review, Todd Ganger made a motion to push through Scheme 3 once again — the plan that would renovate the existing Jonesborough Middle School building and add on to it to create the K-8 school for Jonesborough students. But another 5-4 vote prevented the scheme from passing to the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee and left the board without any traction on the issue.

Board Members Philip McLain, Keith Ervin, David Hammond, Mary Beth Dellinger and Annette Buchanan voted against the motion for Scheme 3. 

“I’m in favor of holding off and waiting a couple of years and let the money build,” Ervin said before the vote. “I understand that it may cost more and then again, in two years down the road, it may not.”

The latest scheme crafted by architect Tony Street would have built a K-4 with the promise of additional classrooms being added on later, phasing out the project. While that plan passed the board in a narrow vote in April’s meeting, it failed the HEW committee meeting earlier this month.

At the end of Thursday night’s meeting, Clarence Mabe, who voted on the failed motion to pass Scheme 3, asked board members what the next steps were. McLain said that while he understands Scheme 3 is the only scheme that fits the budget constraints, he couldn’t vote for it because he isn’t comfortable with how the school will be situated on the land in relation to the football field.

“I cannot wrap my mind around putting a two-story building behind the current middle school within 10 or 12 feet of the edge of the football field, with no other sports area of any kind, where 935 kids have to go,” he said, later adding that he would like to see Scheme 2A be adopted as the plan.

Scheme 2A would raze the round Jonesborough Elementary School building that was initially supposed to be renovated for the future K-8 school with fewer classrooms to bring the plan closer to budget. The problem with that plan is that even with the removed classrooms from the plans, scheme 2A still remains out of budget for the project.

So McLain asked if redistricting might be the answer.

“Reducing some classrooms, do some redistricting to bring the total student body down so you don’t need 47 classrooms,” he said. “That’s my opinion on the best thing (to do) for the next 50 years. You get rid of a mistake that was made in the early ‘70s, and you build a school for today’s kids as well as for the next 40, 50 years.”

McLain said redistricting could fill some rooms at Westview and Grandview and the new Boones Creek school, an 1,100-student facility that will house 687 current Boones Creek students. Other board members argued that the point of building Boones Creek with extra space was to attract more students from Johnson City and surrounding counties, and that filling its capacity by redistricting other students to that school would defeat the purpose.

“There’s a lot of holes in that,” Ganger said. “The longer we wait, the more we’re spending. No matter what scheme we take, we keep waiting, waiting, waiting, and Scheme 3 is almost out of budget now.

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

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