Jonesborough's answers to questions about new school

Robert Houk • Aug 20, 2019 at 10:00 PM

Why are Jonesborough officials offering to build a new K-8 school and athletic complex in the town? How would Washington County go about leasing the new school building?

What are the advantages of the new school site?

These are among the questions town leaders seek to answer in information it has released to area residents, county commissioners and school board members.

Why does the town of Jonesborough want to be involved in building a new school?

• Education is a key component to the quality of life of our residents While quality teachers provide a good education regardless of the condition of the school, teachers and our students deserve the best facilities possible.

• Parents with young children most often choose where they live based on their perception of the educational opportunities available to their children.

• While athletic facilities are an important component of a top-notch educational program, these facilities are expensive. Sharing these facilities for school and community use is the best way to spend tax dollars.

• The current location of the Jonesborough elementary and middle schools provides limited athletic opportunities.

• The current location of the Jonesborough schools off U.S. Highway 11E creates major traffic congestion for motorists trying to drive through Jonesborough.

What is the Jonesborough plan?

The town has proposed building a new school on a site within or near its corporate limits. Jonesborough will buy the land, extend utilities to the site and construct a new K-8 school that is the same size as the new $28 million Pre-K-8 school, which opened earlier this month in Boones Creek.

Where is the new school site?

Jonesborough has an option to purchase 47 acres off North Cherokee Street — just north of U.S. Highway 11E . The site will be be easily accessible from U.S. 11E, thanks to a new traffic signal and a connector at what is now Smith Lane. The new school is also accessible from Tenn. Highway 81 via Rocky Hollow Road and Skyline Drive.

How will Jonesborough finance the construction of the school and athletic facilities?

The town is offering Washington County an opportunity to lease the school building under a lease-to-purchase agreement that will see ownership of the building go to the county at the end of the lease term. This agreement will cover all the costs of the project.

Can the County Commission afford the lease payment for the new school?

Yes. Financial information shared with the county’s Budget Committee in April shows the county has the ability to make an annual lease payment of $2,362,000 to the town without increasing its property taxes.

If Jonesborough builds the new school, will the County Commission and Board of Education have a say in its design?

Yes. Jonesborough will establish a design team to include representatives of the architectural and engineering firms, town leaders, school system officials, school board members and county commissioners. The town will hire the architect, and have control over the school’s final design and costs.

Will Jonesborough tell the school system and Board of Education how to operate the new school?

No. The town is committed to be helpful in providing a quality school facility, but it will not be involved in overseeing its staff or daily operation.

What will happen to the current Jonesborough schools if the town builds a new K-8?

• The Jonesborough schools are located on the most valuable retail property in town. Other parcels along that stretch of highway has typically sold for between $400,000 and $500,000. The Board of Education will be asked to work with a development specialist to create a master plan to maximize the revenue opportunities of the property.

• Proceeds from the sale of the current school property will go to the county’s capital improvement fund for other school and county needs.

• Sale of the land to a sales and property taxpaying business will improve the coffers of both the county and the town.

How does Jonesborough expect to control construction costs of the new school?

The school’s location has a big impact on construction costs. A good school site reduces grading costs, requires less rock removal and subsurface remediation, making it easier to deal with drainage issues and eliminating the need for expensive retaining walls.

Will the partnership arrangement between the school system and Jonesborough involving the grounds and athletic facilities be controlled by the town?

The town will be responsible for maintaining the athletic facilities, and they will remain under Jonesborough’s ownership. The town’s Parks and Recreation Department care of these facilities will spare the school system of the cost to provide such maintenance.