By Dave Ongie, Managing Editor
Washington County school leaders recently signed an agreement that will transform the former Boones Creek Elementary building into a satellite campus for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Elizabethton.
The lease-to-own agreement will help Elizabethton’s TCAT reduce a lengthy waiting list while increasing access to technical training for high school students and some adults in Washington County. The proposal to convert the vacant school building into a satellite campus was hatched in March of 2019, but the inclusion of $54 million in the latest Tennessee budget earmarked to bolster TCAT campuses around the state helped make that proposal a reality.
“The governor has stepped up and he has funded these TCAT programs, particularly ones that have backlogs like ours does,” said Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy, referring to the over 3,500 students currently on a waiting list at Elizabethton’s TCAT campus. “It’s going to give us the opportunity to not just take a campus that’s 50 years old and use it for the TCAT purpose, but also in anticipation of a complete rebuild with a totally modern facility over the next three or four years.”
The waiting list wasn’t the only deterrent for students in Washington County to pursue training from the TCAT campus in Elizabethton. Lottie Ryans, director of workforce development at First Tennessee Development District, identified the long drive from southern parts of the county to Elizabethton as another barrier facing students.
Conversely, the Boones Creek TCAT campus will be centrally located just off Exit 17 of I-26. “To be able to have that right here for our Johnson City and Washington County students is exceptional, and it gives a great location for our businesses to engage in a way they haven’t in the past,” Ryans said.
Like Washington County, educational leaders in Johnson City have been working to provide a high-quality CTE program to prepare students for life after high school. “I think it will help some of our students connect and give them more purpose through high school,” said Johnson City Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett.