Tuesday, March 08, 2011

TOP STORY >> School plans move ahead

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District on Tuesday night unanimously approved the hiring of architects and builders for the construction and rehabilitation of as many as seven district schools beginning this summer.

The board previously approved spending $1.5 million to get those professionals to rough out plans and costs for the projects before the actual commitment to go ahead with one or all projects.

Any commitment would happen at the April board meeting, when the board approves the 2011-2012 budget, according board president Bill Vasquez.

“I’m feeling optimistic that we will be able to go forward,” said Derek Scott, district chief of operations.

Scott and Superintendent Charles Hopson have proposed building two new elementary schools and one new middle school in Jacksonville and extreme makeovers—Scott calls those “add-alters” — for Harris, Scott and College Station elementary schools and Robinson Middle School.

The estimated $104 million required for those projects would come from bonds secured by cutting $8 million a year from the district budget, and the groundwork for some of those cuts was laid Tuesday night at the meeting.

Of the savings, about $780,000 would come from closing the existing Jacksonville Elementary School next fall.

The vision includes both new Jacksonville Elementary School and Middle School buildings as wings to a central building that would house administration offices, kitchen, the media center and other areas, but the classrooms, cafeterias and some other areas would be separate.

Also slated for construction is a new elementary school on 20 acres at Little Rock Air Force Base that would serve students in attendance zones from which Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools currently draw.

Witsell, Evans, Rasco Architects will plan both the new Jacksonville Elementary School and Jacksonville Middle School.Baldwin Shell will serve as construction manager on both jobs.

Wittenberg, Delony, Davidson Architects will plan the replacement elementary school, to be built on Harris Road at Little Rock Air Force Base, for Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools. Baldwin Shell will be construction manager for that project as well.

Wittenberg, Delony, Davidson will also be architects for both the rebuilt Robinson Middle School and Harris Elementary School with Harco serving as the construction manager on both.
Polk, Stanley, Wilcox Architects will plan the College Station and Harris elementary school makeovers with East Harding serving as the construction managers.

The board moved forward on some of the cuts and economies required to raise the money to pay for the $104 million bond issue. It authorized the administration to advertise for lawn-care service with an eye toward reducing the size of the maintenance department and also for managed document services to include district copiers and other document services.

The district hopes to save $52,000 a year by awarding a contract for school bus and auto- parts management, expected to “enhance fiscal control and significantly improve fleet performance,” and the board approved advertising a request for proposals.

Scott told the board that the district could realize large energy savings by contracting an energy-services company to develop an energy-savings performance contract. Scott said the gist of this is for a company to obtain financing for the district to install new, efficient HVAC systems for some buildings, augmented by increased insulation and energy- efficient windows.

The new equipment would be paid for from part of the savings realized by using more efficient equipment. This is fairly common in the private sector, and the Air Force has used such contracts, Scott said.

Some parents and teachers seemed unhappy with the interim assignment of Veronica Perkins to replace Danny Ebbs as Sylvan Hills High School principal, and asked for and received acknowledgment that the school’s site-based council would participate in selecting the permanent replacement.