Community reacts to talks of Rush Strong School possibly closing

Local News

STRAWBERRY PLAINS, Tenn. (WATE) — Parents and members of the community express their concern over the possibility of Rush Strong School closing.

A few months ago, the Jefferson County School Board had a needs assessment done to identify repairs needed in some of the school buildings within the district. Based on those needs, five scenarios were created.

  • Scenario 1 involves constructing a list of repairs that need to be done at each school and completing them one by one based on the severity of the damage.
  • Scenario 2 involves taking the building that is in the worst shape and replacing it completely. The remaining buildings would be repaired.
  • Scenario 3 involves taking the two buildings that are in the worst shape and replacing them with new buildings, then repairing the rest of the buildings.
  • Scenario 4 involves just creating a list of repairs that need to be done and deciding what to do from there.
  • Scenario 5 involves consolidating Piedmont Elementary and Rush Strong School into one building and Talbott Elementary and Jefferson Elementary into another building.

Scenario 5 is the one that raised concerns with parents and community members that depend on Rush Strong School.

“This is all this community here has and if it goes away, this community is gonna fall apart. The church across the street, it thrives on the kids here at this school and I feel like you know, we need this school. We need it big time.” said community member, Danny Martin.

Area businesses like the Strawberry Plains Senior Center depend on the school. The non-profit relies on community donations to stay open, and they often use Rush Strong School as a fundraising space. Without a space to hold fundraisers, the organization could ultimately close.

The school board wants to assure the community that these scenarios were only discussion topics, and that no decisions have been made yet. Jefferson County Director of Schools, Dr. Shane Johnston sent a statement on the matter.

“A few months ago, the board hired an architectural firm to identify needed repairs in the Jefferson County School district. The estimate was approximately $60.1 million.
 
On January 18, 2020 – board held a retreat (work session) and discussed several things including the needs assessment.
 
Five scenarios were mentioned in that meeting … ranging from making a list and fixing every building through the possibility of new construction to replace and/or consolidate some buildings.
 
Scenario 5 was presented as a discussion starter and that scenario combined two elementary schools and build one new school. Scenario 5 combined Talbott Elementary and Jefferson Elementary and Piedmont Elementary and Rush Strong School.
 
I can’t predict any board member’s actions at Thursday’s meeting, but scenario 5 is not a proposal or recommendation at this point. I believe there will be more discussion about possibilities to address the needs assessment.”

Dr. Shane Johnston

This issue will be discussed at the next school board meeting on Thursday, February 6.

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