Wednesday, November 03, 2010

TOP STORY > >Base could get school

By john hofheimer
Leader senior staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base and the Pulaski County Special School District could be in the running for school construction money.

The district and the base are under consideration by the Air Force for a grant to build a new elementary school, according to school district officials.

The air base has offered 77 acres upon which to build one or more new schools on the base pe
rimeter, according to Bob Oldham, spokesman for the 19th Air Mobility Wing.
“Whatever gives us maximum opportunity to provide new facilities, we’re going to explore,” PCSSD Superintendent Charles Hopson said Monday. “We have no specifics.”

The 77 acres are surplus base housing slated for demolition, Oldham said. Arnold Drive Elementary, a decrepit PCSSD school, is located on the base.

The facility is questionable, but the school has been winning state and national honors for academic improvement.

It is unclear whether or not the offer also includes another 20 acres previously offered to the district. Oldham said the two parcels are not adjacent. The 20 acres are located outside the fence on Harris Road, across from North Pulaski High School, Oldham said.

There has been talk of building a new elementary school on base land but outside the fenced and secured area for students in the zones currently assigned to Arnold Drive and nearby Tolleson Elementary School.

Col. Andy Coggins, 19th Airlift Wing Mission Support Group commander, informed the board at a recent meeting that a new Air Force policy allows for the first time financial support for a limited amount of construction, repair and remodeling of some substandard public schools with large attendance of military dependents.

Derek Scott, a retired Air Force colonel with experience in facilities care and maintenance, is the school district’s new director of facilities.

Scott said the district already had provided the Air Force with some helpful information. “If we make the finals, there will be another data call to give them more information.”

He said the Defense Depart-ment had a team of engineers and analysts who would visit finalists and score the data.

The district could eventually build more than one school at the site—perhaps a middle school or high school, Scott said.