By MARINA WATERS
The time had come. Parents, community members, teachers, and students of the Boones Creek community finally got the chance to walk through the doors of the brand new Boones Creek School on Saturday.
The Boones Creek K-8 School opened with a ribbon-cutting celebration and tour through the new building off of Highland Church Road. As folks weaved in and out of the brand-new library and 1,100-student gym with a giant paw print in the center of the hardwood, it was clear it was more than just a celebration of a new school year for the community. It was a celebration of new memories to be made.
“I know that this school is going to be a source of great pride for this community and the school will serve all of our students. We will be a family-centered school that creates that Boones Creek family that will last for years,” Principal Jordan Hughes said. “The building is a gorgeous building. I would go so far as to say it’s the prettiest school in East Tennessee.”
The over 1,300 square-foot school has a current student population of about 800 students — all housed in one building. In Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary’s opinion, that sets the school apart — not only as the county’s largest school — but as one of the largest in the area. (So large in fact, he gifted Hughes with her own skate board to get across the large school in record time.)
“Just south of here is Tennessee’s seventh largest high school and that’s Science Hill High School. It’s about 180,000 square feet over several buildings,” Flanary said. “The building behind me is over 130,000 square feet under one roof. It will be Washington County’s single largest school — bigger than Daniel Boone, bigger than David Crockett.”
The ribbon cutting also offered a chance to look back on the planning process for the Boones Creek School.
The school board started its planning process for the county system in 2012 and thus the combining of Boones Creek Elementary and Middle School was placed as the top priority. Then after over a year of searching for the site, the board of education decided on the Highland Church property with construction beginning for the school in the summer of 2017.
“I was asked several times as I walked up to this building if I thought I’d ever see this day,” Tony Street, the school project’s architect said at the ribbon cutting. “I told them when I got up this morning, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or run. It has been quite a journey. It’s quite an honor to be here this morning.”
Just miles from where American historical figure Daniel Boone carved his name in a tree telling of his infamous slaying of a bear, or a “bar”, the new school will honor Boones Creek history as well.
“We should take care not to forget our beautiful history — Boones Creek High School, Boones Creek Middle School, Boones Creek Elementary School,” Hughes said. “Boones Creek has roots and we today are going to replant those roots here. We don’t want to forget where we came from. We want to embrace our history as we look toward the future.”
Replanting that history is now becoming a reality to families, community members and also those teachers who made the move from the old school to the new.
For eighth grade English and language arts teacher Katy Hancock, the reality of the school had finally set in during the ribbon cutting — and so has the opportunity for her students.
“I felt like the closer we got to the end of last year, the more excited everyone was as we were packing boxes and getting everything together,” Hancock said standing outside of her new classroom. “I’m most excited about being all in the same building as preK-8. I think it will create a lot of opportunities for our older kids to connect with a younger generation and be mentors.”
Though a brand new building and updated learning environment stood before the community on Saturday, it was clear the facility wasn’t the entire focus; for so many donning their red and black “Bar” t-shirts outside of the new school, the celebration was about the community and those who would be coming together in the newly constructed building.
“It is a state-of-the-art facility. It’s energy efficient, it’s safe, it’s collaboratively focused … you name it we have it,” Hughes said. “However, it’s not the building that makes the school. It’s the people that make the building. The teachers, using the best instructional practices and insuring that students learn, building relationships, challenging them to reach their full potential. It is Mrs. Brenda in the cafeteria cooking the food, serving your children daily with a smile on her face and love in her heart. It’s the ladies at the front office ready to help you in any way.
“It’s the students, the heartbeat of the school, the reason for our existence. It is them. They are the reason that this building is here and why we give our best every day. They’re the reason we strive for success and perfection. They’re our future.”