VITAL POLICY – The “Ibbetson Plan” for Jefferson Elementary School, Patriot Academy, and Jefferson County High School

Plan will not add to Jefferson County’s $84.3 million debt

Doug Ibbetson is a businessman with extensive experience in banking, finance, and business management, one who thinks outside the box, and one who views problem solving with a unique approach. He was elected to the Jefferson County School Board in August 2022.

After four years of struggling to secure funding for a new elementary school, the school board has reached the end of its preverbal rope on many occasions.

County commission, looking at declining student enrollment, record price inflation, a property tax increase, the prospect of uncertain economic conditions caused by a near thirty-two trillion-dollar national debt, the expressed unwillingness of local taxpayers to bear more local debt, increased cost of providing services, expansion of school ESAs (vouchers), multiple new private schools being built, and a recently published detailed architectural report called a “Needs Assessment Study” that specifies a surplus of room for 3000 additional students in the Jefferson County School System, the prospect of obtaining funding for a new elementary school is remote at best.

County Commission voted on April 17th, 2023, to ask the school board to explore Ibbetson’s plan.

Ibbetson’s Plan in 6 steps

Step 1: Build a classroom pod at Jefferson County High School Main Campus at a fraction of the cost of a new elementary school, a project that could potentially be paid from the school system’s $8.6 million fund balance with a healthy financial cushion left over, and without a bond issue requiring more county debt. Benefit: The extra classroom pod would alleviate any potential overcrowding issue, even though the “Needs Assessment Study” indicates that JCHS proper can hold all ninth through twelfth graders in its current configuration with a little room left over.

Step 2: Move the ninth grade back to the main JCHS campus creating a new space for middle school grade levels six, seven, and eight at present day Patriot Academy. Benefit: With Patriot Academy vacated of ninth graders, those ninth-grade students return to the main campus where they can be immersed in high school life and all its valuable programs. This move would solve the logistical problem of transporting ninth graders by bus to and from the main campus each day and provide younger students the experience of seeing upperclassmen model high school behavior, something they are currently deprived of in their isolation at Patriot Academy.

Step 3: Move Jefferson Middle School students to Patriot Academy, which is designed for one thousand students. Benefit: With Patriot Academy vacated of the ninth grade, it can become a magnet middle school that can provide course offerings and special programs for Career and Technical Education, Stem, and other specialty academic subjects.

Step 4: Move selected middle school students from White Pine and Maury to the new magnet middle school based on subject preference and academic goals. Benefit: Room for middle grade level growth is created.

Step 5: With present-day Jefferson Middle School now empty, a perfect space is created to accommodate the students that currently attend Jefferson Elementary School. Modest modifications would need to be made to Jefferson Middle School to facilitate use by younger students. Benefit: Jefferson Elementary students gain better facilities.

Step 6: Current-day Jefferson Elementary School, once vacated, can be carefully evaluated as to its future role in our school system. Several possibilities seem obvious, 1) use as an alternative school, 2) teacher training center, 3) adult high school, or 4) full renovation as a future elementary or middle school. Removing students from current day Jefferson Elementary School solves several problems and provides the school system with additional choices. Benefit: Increased options for use of space.

A link to Jefferson County’s Debt Summary Pages and payment schedules from the Finance Office detailing both county debt and nursing home debt are provided here.

(County Debt, Including Interest, less estimated federal rebates $63,755,153.75)

(County Nursing Home Debt, Paid by Nursing Home, Including Interest $20,620,712.50)

David Seal is a retired Jefferson County educator, recognized artist, local businessman, 917 Society Volunteer, and current Chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party. He has also served Jefferson County as a County Commissioner and is a citizen lobbyist for the people on issues such as eminent domain, property rights, education, and broadband accessibility on the state level.

Source: Plan will not add to Jefferson County’s $84.3 million debt