Jonesborough celebrates school plan, prepares for heavy lifting
By Dave Ongie, News Editor
Last Wednesday night, those who had a hand in finalizing a plan to build a new K-8 school to replace the aging Jonesborough Middle and Elementary schools gathered at the McKinney Center to celebrate how far they had come.
Efforts to build a new school in Jonesborough had dragged on for years before a deal was finalized last November for the town of Jonesborough to finance the $32.75 million project and lease the building to Washington County, which will take ownership of the new school when the 38-year lease expires. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy told the parents, students, citizens and local government representatives in attendance that the deal came to fruition thanks in large part to the community’s persistence.
“I’ll say this – we’re not here tonight without the tenacity of the teachers and the parents, specifically, who kept pushing and pushing and pushing through scheme after scheme after scheme of school plans,” he said. “You’re the ones that made this opportunity take place.”
That persistence was celebrated last Thursday as Grandy, Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest, the principals of Jonesborough Middle and Jonesborough Elementary and Kerrie Aistrop, a longtime champion of getting a new K-8 school built, took the stage and thanked everyone who had a hand in designing the innovative deal that makes funding a new school possible.
Vest said the goal from Jonesborough’s standpoint was to collaborate with the county school board and commission as well as parents, teachers and administrators to make sure the town got a first-class school built.
“There’s going to be give and take, but at the end of the day, we’re going to have something we’re all proud of,” Vest said.
Grandy praised Vest and his team for their efforts in completing the groundbreaking agreement, and thanked everyone for their patience as the details were worked out.
“They have come up with this unique approach that’s virtually untested, and that’s why it has taken us so long to get here, replacing two schools that have been around for a little while with this unique approach that saves the citizens of Washington County a lot of money,” Grandy said.
While there was plenty to celebrate last Thursday, Grandy and Vest have both begun to pivot to the hard work that lies ahead. The plan to finance the school is akin to a door being opened. Now those involved with the planning and execution of the project must walk through that door and begin making the proposed school a reality.
“The reality is that the heavy lifting is just beginning,” Grandy said. “For the team of folks that are going to be working on the design, we’ve got a huge task ahead to bring this project out of the ground and in under budget. I’m honored to be part of the team that’s going to be working on that, and looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.”
Vest noted that Jonesborough town administrator Bob Browning has been laying groundwork for the last couple months, working behind the scenes to ensure the design team is able to hit the ground running. Vest is hopeful the team will be set to begin its work following a Jan. 20 county commission meeting, where it is expected that the final two team members will be appointed and the contract will be finalized to officially hire an architect to build the school.
“That’s going to be an important night for the town of Jonesborough,” Vest said.