JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL)- The long-awaited Jonesborough School Project is becoming a reality more and more each day. Officials broke ground on the two-story, 140,000-square-foot school back in November.
The $42.75 million dollar project comes after controversy and many meetings between town, school and county officials over the unique funding mechanism.
The town of Jonesborough is taking out the bonds for the project. The county entered a lease agreement that essentially covers that borrowing cost and eventually purchases the school.
The current Jonesborough Elementary School Principal and Washington Co. native, Matt Combs, will keep his title at the new facility.
“This is starting my seventh year at Jonesborough Elementary School,” Combs told News Channel 11. “Before that, I was the assistant principal at Sulphur Springs for five years and before that, I taught first grade and fourth grade at Boones Creek Elementary School. It really means a lot to be able to start at the helm of that and start to lead our fantastic teachers to that next chapter of education in Jonesborough.”
The state-of-the-art facility is expected to enhance student opportunities.
“All of our schools are K-8 schools, but Jonesborough that’s not been a reality. So having that K-4 world merge with the 5-8 world, they’re two different realms of education and just being able to pull them together under one roof, that’s going to be a challenge,” Combs said. “We’ll have a couple of science labs. We’re going to have some STREAM and STEM opportunities through our library and media center. We’re looking at coding and robotics being the future, and that’s one of the focuses we’ll be pursuing with our library media center.”
The school is being built with safety in mind and will have a two-part entry system.
“We know when doors are open, they got key card readers to get into the school and it will be very easy to lock it down,” said Tom Burleson, the CEO of Burleson Construction who is over the project. “It’s got all the technology that’s currently available; it’s going to be in there. The science rooms are going to be very nice. It’s got a gym. It’s going to have a courthouse square community gathering space right inside the front door.”
Doors are set to be open next school year, but that could be pushed back.
“It’s been ready to put the roof on for about two months almost, and we still don’t have the roof insulation,” Burleson said. “There’s a little of a delay on the brick. The brick could be started, but there’s a little delay on it getting in here, just material shortages everywhere plus labor. It’s hard to staff a job these days. The contract date is November the 4th of 2023. Depending on some materials that come in, we will hit that date but depending on materials coming in will determine whether or not we get in sooner.”
In the meantime, there is still a lot of work to be done in and outside of the building along with preparing those who will fill it.
“We’re looking at preparing students who are five and six years old for careers that they don’t know even exist yet,” Combs said. “We need to have a state-of-the-art building to provide that education, and that’s exactly what the town’s come together [for]. They’ve developed this plan, this vision for education in Jonesborough and it’s coming to fruition finally.”
Washington County is anticipating about 900 students to be enrolled for the first year, but there’s plenty of room for growth as the building can hold 1,100 students.