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Vocational School Education & Funding Under Discussion

Macon County Mayor Steve Jones

(From the desk of Macon County Mayor Steve Jones)

Macon County commissioners are discussing the fate of the Tri-County Vocational School, in Red Boiling Springs after the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT), in Hartsville, announced they would no longer be able to manage the vocational school at the old Tri-County Vocational School campus.  TCAT has given Macon County a 3-to-5-year option for a new Vocational School. If Macon County will build a new school within walking distance of the Macon County High School, TCAT has made a commitment to provide the teachers and equipment for classes. 

This would result in the current Tri County Vocational School closing, after approximately 50 years of teaching a valuable trade to area students.  The vocational school was originally established to provide vocational classes for Clay, Jackson and Macon County high school students.  Clay County was the first to pull out when they built their new high school facility. Their assets in the Tri County Vocational school were then divided up equally to Jackson and Macon counties. Clay and Jackson counties are served by the TCAT in Livingston. TCAT in Hartsville provides the satellite program for the Vocational School in Red Boiling Springs and currently includes the Jackson students.

Mayor Jones said many citizens think we are wanting to build a vocational school just because we want a new school in Lafayette. This is not the case. We are having to build a new school to give the children in Macon County a place to get vocational education. If TCAT in Hartsville is unable to sustain the original Tri County Vocational School, we have no choice. TCAT has committed to providing the teachers an equipment if we build a new facility within walking distance of the Macon County High School. This is not a decision being made by choice it’s a decision being made by necessity. We want our students to have the ability to get a good vocational education here in Macon County.

It is sad to see the Tri County Vocational School be abandoned but 50 years is a long time in the current facility. It is an old building and although it doesn’t look that bad outside, my understanding is the inside is in poor condition and needs a lot of work. 

When the Tri-County Vocational School was originally built, it was for three counties, Clay, Jackson, and Macon Counties. Mr. Doyle Gaines was one of the main educators who was instrumental in getting the Tri County Vocational School established. In 1972, the late Charlie Gregory, wrote an article about how the school was funded by the Clay, Jackson, and Macon County commissions, with a cost of almost one million dollars ($1,000,000) – 50 years ago.  A new facility is estimated to cost approximately $12,000,000, today. With the age of the facility and the geographical location and decrease in student numbers it is understandable why TCAT has made their decision.  

A recent study has shown that if a new vocational school is built near the high school this will allow better access for the students and allow students to schedule vocational classes they would otherwise never been able to take. The easier accessibility will increase the number of students taking vocational classes considerably.  Most anyone will tell you that every child doesn’t have to go to college and honesty in today’s world we need vocational workers, and we need a vocational school. 

Most of the commissioners feel we must have a vocational school. Unfortunately, we are already having to deal with building a new elementary school. The Board of Education has voted to proceed with a new elementary school which is estimated to cost between $53 to $55 million dollars.  It is being funded by the half cent sales tax and one dollar appropriation of additional impact fees. The school board has committed to fund the balance out of their school payment from school revenues. The school board has asked the county commissioners to fund the new vocational school. The only way to fund a vocational school is either property tax or wheel tax, this is the reason the commissioners are looking at a $36.00 increase in wheel tax to fund the vocational school and will sunset it when the school s paid off.

There will be a public hearing during the Macon County Commissioners meeting at the Macon County Courthouse on Monday April 3rd at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the construction and wheel tax increase for funding of the new Vocational School.