School board abandons consolidation idea

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By Damon Lawrence

The Roane County Board of Education’s foray into high school consolidation was short-lived. By a 7-3 vote Thursday night, the board voted to keep its current five high schools and scrap its consolidation plan that was approved in February.

“With the community that’s been talking to me, talking to a lot of us, I don’t feel this is the right time to consolidate these schools,” Board Member Rob Jago said. “I think the community is behind getting these schools in shape and keeping our community schools.”

Jago, Nadine Jackson, Hugh Johnson, Darrell “Drack” Langley, Michael Taylor, Danny Wright and Sam Cox voted for the motion to keep the schools open and scrap the consolidation plan. Larry Brackett, Vic King and Mike “Brillo” Miller voted against it.

The motion also directs Lewis Group Architects to come up with an estimate of the needs of each of the five high schools.

“I think the cheapest option is to take care of the needs of our five high schools,” Jago said.

Thursday night’s vote came less than two months after the board voted 7-3 to build one new high school for the county and close the current five high schools. Some school board members and county commissioners said the feedback they got from the public wasn’t supportive of that plan.

“Those people right out there elected me,” Taylor said, referring to the audience that packed the auditorium at Roane County High School Thursday Night. “They’ve told me that this is what they want. They want to keep their schools.”

Director of Schools Leah Rice Watkins told board members on Thursday that 62.9 percent of people who participated in a recent survey felt the one-school plan wouldn’t adequately address the needs of the school system.

For more on this story, read Monday’s edition of the Roane County News.