County mayor calls new Jonesborough school plan 'discouraging'

Robert Houk • Apr 7, 2018 at 10:09 AM

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said Friday he found the county Board of Education’s vote to send a new plan for a K-8 school in Jonesborough to the County Commission to be “very discouraging.” He also believes county commissioners are “running out of patience” with the Board of Education over the Jonesborough school project.

“We are going backwards,” Eldridge said of the board’s decision. “Now they (school board members) want to spend as much as $21 million to build a K-4 school. How does that compute? What am I missing here?”

The Board of Education voted 5-4 Thursday night to approve what Board member Mary Beth Dellinger called “scheme 4.” Dellinger said the proposal is a modified version of scheme 2, which would remove the saucer-shaped portion of the existing elementary school and build a new school onto the portion added in the 1990s. Architect Tony Street told school board members the overall cost for the project would come in $6 million over the $20.7 million the county has budgeted for the Jonesborough K-8 project.

Dellinger, however, proposed dividing the project into two phases to meet budget constraints. She said the plan calls for building the cafeteria, gym, kitchens and bottom wing of the school first, then taking on the top two wings at a later date. She said that would leave the facility at a 660-student capacity and 30 classrooms, which would limit the school to housing grades K-4 until the remainder of the school is built.

Eldridge said the County Commission has already approved a plan to allocate $20.7 million for a K-8 and magnet school on the Jonesborough site. More importantly, he said, commissioners voted to raise taxes to fund that and other key capital projects for the school system.

“The money is there and ready to be spent,” Eldridge said. “Now the school board appears to be backing up.”

The school board’s new Jonesborough school plan will be heard by the commission’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee in May. Earlier this week, the HEW committee voted to deny a request from the Board of Education for the county to sell the Boones Creek Middle School property and designate the proceeds to the Jonesborough school project.

Committee members also voted to defer action on another request from the board to proceed with the purchase of a 15-acre tract beside Jonesborough Elementary School.

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