Above, Ben Marshall (left) takes a break while Joseph Harless (right) continues the work on the school.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

When you drive by Jonesborough Elementary School, you might notice it’s recently been “beautified” by a team of hard working community members, parents and teachers.

The folks at WoodmenLife, a not-for-profit insurance company, chose Jonesborough Elementary as the location of its community beautification project. WoodmenLife Recruiting Sales Manager James Gilbert and three sales representatives — along with some hardworking volunteers — have since been putting the effort in to improve the entrance of the school by removing the overgrown trees and shrubs growing out front and improving the overall look of the building.

From left to right, Ben Marshall, James Gilbert, Scott Hyatt, Joseph Harless made up the WoodmenLife crew that worked to “beautify” the entrance of Jonesborough Elementary.

“We love taking care of the community,” Gilbert said. “(WoodmenLife) does this all over the United States. They gave us $500 bucks (to make improvements to the school) and it’s going to look good when we finish up. We just enjoy doing it because we just don’t advertise. We build relationships. That’s where we get our business.”

Gilbert, along with Joseph Harless, Scott Hyatt and Ben Marshall, were joined by Jim Lang, who plans to bring a Girl Scout Troop back to the school when the bushes are ready to be planted out front, and Jonesborough Elementary School art teacher Jan Allen who used her planning period to help clean up the front entrance.

“I got an email this morning from Jan Allen,” Principal Matt Combs said, “and she says, ‘I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt today so I can get out there and help those guys on my planning period.’ I said, That’s fine. You go right ahead.’ When I told (the teachers) what the plans were, it was, ‘wow’ all across the room. I think there’s been some excitement leading up to today.”

WoodmenLife chose Jonesborough Elementary as its beautification project due to the recent stirrings in the news and continued discussions about the future of a Jonesborough School project that has yet to reach a conclusion.

“I said ‘that’s the one I’ve been hearing a lot on the news.’,” Gilbert said. “I was actually sitting in Cootie Browns and someone behind me at the table was furious that this school was not getting any help but they’re building a new (school in Boones Creek). So I made the final decision.”

For Gilbert, these sort of projects are about getting his crew out in the community. And for Combs, it’s important because the people in the building deserve it.

“We have a great school,” Combs said. “We have a great faculty, we have awesome kids. The teachers come in this building come in here and they work really hard every day to give the best education possible to the kids we serve. The building is a building. It’s not the school. Could we use new walls? Yeah. Could we use windows in our building? Absolutely. But are we still going to come in here and give our students the best education we possibly can? Yes.”

Long before the beautification project began, Combs said teachers have continued to put work into keeping the building looking its best and plan to keep it up.

“Our teachers take pride in this building even though it is outdated,” Combs said. “Walk through and look at the classrooms. Look at the work they’ve put in on their own time this past summer painting walls, painting countertops, painting cabinets — the money they’ve spent to make this building look good and they do it because our kids deserve it.”

Combs said they also do it because they realize that even with yet another meeting set for Thursday to discuss the Jonesborough School project — this time with the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen — the current round building will still be home for students, teachers and staff until further notice.

“If they say ‘yes’ (to a plan for the school) on Thursday night, it’s going to be a minimum two or three years (before something is done). This is our building,” Combs said. “This is our school for the next two years, three years, 10 years, 20 years — however long they decide they want to be in it.

“Regardless of whether they say we’re getting a new school or whether they say we’re not, we’re going to take care of this building as long as we possible can, as long as it’s ours to take care of.”

Until something is decided, flowers will be planted, a fresh coat of orange paint will be placed on the paw prints leading to the front doors — and the people inside those doors will still be doing their best.

“If they put tents out there in front of the building and said, ‘this is where you’re going to have your classes,’ that’s fine.” Combs said. “We’d go out there and do what we need to do. And we’ll still do the good job that we always do.”