Tuesday, January 20, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Schools need Improving

The bad news is that, mathematically, the Pulaski County Special School District is shortchanging Jacksonville schools again when it comes to facility dollars.

The good news is it’s not missing the mark by much, which is much more fair than the city schools have seen from the district in the past.

Even better news is a promise from Derek Scott, the district’s executive director of operations, who has said the district will support Jacksonville schools right up to the moment of separation. A former colonel, Scott has a reputation for not speaking unless he can back it up.

Whether this spirit of cooperation and fairness, which has been getting stronger over the past two years, is the result of two divorcing parents wanting to look good for divorce court or a district finally putting children over politics – it is most welcomed.

Out of the $7 million slated by the district for what it calls sustainment, restoration and modernization projects, the Jacksonville schools are getting about $1.94 million in work, about $500,000 less than they should since they comprise 38 percent of the PCSSD’s campuses. But add another $425,000 in infrastructure projects specifically needed because of the impending split and it’s just a little shy of even.

Just about every school in Jacksonville will be touched to some degree by this year’s remodeling, repair and sprucing up crews.

Scott said, at this point, even more work will be done on the city schools next year before the final separation is declared.

If the school facilities are improved as promised, bringing in a safer and more pleasant climate for students and teachers, then this divorce is what everyone needed.

Some of the projects on the district’s list have already been completed or are close to being finished.

According to the list of 68 projects, Warren Dupree will get a major overhaul to the tune of about $500,000 to include added walls to some of its open space, taking care of the potholes that are so large they can cause vehicle damage, new paint, carpeting and a spiffing up of the outside. Scott says, when the district is done with the work, Dupree will have the look of a new school.

Jacksonville High School is getting about $400,000 worth of work done, including parking lot, retiling and brightening corridors, new auditorium flooring and drainage work to prevent the flooding that caused the need for the flooring work.

Murrell Taylor Elementary is also in the midst of about a $300,000 restoration and modernization project, which includes replacing the flooring throughout the school, a new and expanding parking lot, new heating and air for all classrooms, a new intercom system and improved security access.

Pinewood Elementary will see a $60,000 improvement in the parking lot.

The new school district will be bounded by Sherwood and Faulkner County on the west, Faulkner County on the north and Lonoke County on the east. The southern boundary is Jacksonville’s southern city limit and Wooten Road to Lonoke County.

The schools in the new district with an enrollment of about 4,000 students are: Arnold Drive Elementary, Bayou Meto Elementary, Homer Adkins Pre-K, Jacksonville Elementary, Murrell Taylor Elementary and Pinewood Elementary.

Also, it will include Tolleson Elementary, Warren Dupree Elementary, Jacksonville Middle School, North Pulaski High School and Jacksonville High School.

Some of these schools will be torn down, and new ones could replace them when Jacksonville leaves PCSSD. A new millage rate will be needed.