By Dave Ongie, Managing Editor
During his remarks at the groundbreaking for Jonesborough’s new K-8 school last week, Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy reflected on Jonesborough’s identity as a “town of firsts.”
Tennessee’s oldest town has blazed plenty of trails over the course of its history, but as last week’s groundbreaking illustrated, there is still new ground to plow. As it happened, the earthmovers on the hill behind the audience were doing just that – molding a 48-acre tract of farmland into the site of the first school construction project in the state of Tennessee funded through a unique lease-to-own funding agreement between the Town of Jonesborough and Washington County.
“What is amazing also about this project is that over 30 elected officials have come together over these past 27 months to say yes over and over again to this unique, first-of-its-kind in the state of Tennessee project, funded in a way that saves the taxpayers millions and millions of dollars over the course of the life of the project,” he said.
As Grandy pointed out, the project required a total team effort on the part of the county and town governments to make the plan hatched by Chuck Vest, Jim Wheeler and Bob Browning back in August of 2019 a reality. Now that funding has been secured and construction is underway, the uncertainty that shadowed the trailblazing proposal throughout its long incubation period gave way to excitement during last Tuesday’s ceremony.
“I think it’s exciting because I know our community fully supports it,” said Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest before the ceremony started. “But it’s also gratifying to see something come to fruition because parents, teachers and our three government entities – the county, the school board and the town – all came together to do something so important for our community.”
At the close of the ceremony, students from Jonesborough’s elementary and middle schools grabbed shovels and turned over dirt to officially kick off the project. Supply chain issues have affected many sectors of the economy, but Vest is confident the new school will be able to open on time.
“We’re going to have the kids in here the beginning of the school year in 2023,” he said. “We look forward to that.”