The Washington County Board of Education has a big decision to make tonight. You might even call it momentous since it sets the course of the county school system for generations to come.
And regardless of what the School Board does tonight, county taxpayers will feel the impact. Maybe not today or even three years from now, but soon. Mark our words. Soon.
Board members will hear a report from consultants they have paid to prepare a plan for replacing aging schools, upgrading inadequate facilities and dealing with a dropping enrollment as a result of annexation from Johnson City over the next decade. The Atlanta-based firm of Kimley-Horn and Associates has developed a $100 million plan. Most notably, the plan calls for a new school to replace the elementary and middle school in Boones Creek.
As Press staff writer Nathan Baker reported last week, both schools are overcrowded and outdated. Consultants believe an 1,100-student combined K-8 school built to the north of the current buildings would move the students out of the path of annexation by Johnson City in the growing Boones Creek area.
The proposed plan also includes building a new combined school for students in the Jonesborough elementary and middle schools on the same land that the two existing schools now occupy.
This is a bold plan, and one that will need the support of the County Commission. Board of Education members can begin winning that support by setting out a clear and fiscally responsible plan for addressing the growth of the school system for decades to come. Yes, it will be expensive. And yes, taxpayers will feel the pinch.
The question is: Will taxpayers feel it in the way of a reasoned capital improvement plan that spreads out the burden over a number of years? Or will county officials do nothing and allow the problem to grow to a point where immediate action will have to be taken at a painfully high cost to taxpayers?
Mark our words. One of the two will most certainly happen. It has before.