Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TOP STORY >> District planning new high school opening in 2019

Leader senior staff writer

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District’s new high school should open for the 2019-20 school year. The question is where.

A new elementary school, replacing Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools, should be ready for business at the same time, and district officials know where that school will be — on Little Rock Air Force Base.

In fact, the Defense Department will probably pay half of the estimated $17 million to build the new elementary school, with the district and the state partnership program each paying about $4.25 million.

That’s what WER Architects and JNP facilities consultant Charles Stein told new and old JNP school board members and a few members of the public Monday night at the Jacksonville Police Department’s FEMA Training Center.


In what Superintendent Tony Wood described as “a dress rehearsal” for the Oct. 5 school board meeting, WER Architects roughed out the advantages and disadvantages of three sites for the high school.

Site preparation for 55 acres of a 91-acre undeveloped campus the district could get or lease cheap from the Defense Department would cost an estimated $14.2 million, while site preparation — including demolition of existing schools — would cost about $8.2 million at the existing Jacksonville High School or $7.2 million at the existing middle school site, according to Eldon Bock, a principal architect at WER.

Based on historical attendance figures at the Jacksonville and North Pulaski high schools, which will roll into one school next year, WER would plan and Baldwin & Shell would build a school for 1,699 students, with contingencies to expand to 2,000 students.


The original build would be 280,695 square feet, according to state standards. At $200 a square foot, that building would cost roughly $56 million, plus the already-mentioned cost of site preparation. If the wealth index were determined to be 55, the district would pay $30.9 million or more. The state’s share of costs on the facilities partnership program is based on an area’s wealth index. The JNPSD wealth index will be calculated for the first time about January 2017.

Meanwhile, it’s estimated the district’s wealth index is about 55, meaning that for all state-approved academic-use facilities, the district would pay $550,000 of every $1 million, with the state paying $450,000.

As to whether to renovate or replace the high school, the national standard is to replace if the cost of renovating is 65 percent the cost of replacing, according Stein.

According to a July visit by the state, it would cost 75 percent as much to renovate as to rebuild.


Telling the board members that time was of the essence, Wood outlined the things that need to be done by or at the Nov. 2 board meeting.

By that date, the board needs to formulate and approve a six-year state master facilities plan, determine how much the plan will likely cost and the property tax millage increase needed to finance construction and renovation. The board must also set a date for that millage-increase election.

“Either we make this happen or we lose two years,” said Wood.


Next February is the ideal time for a millage-increase election, according to Stein.

The deadline to submit a master plan is Feb. 1 and a partnership funding application is due March 1. Stein said the state would notify the district May 1, 2017, of what it would fund.

State guidelines suggest a high school this size should be on 52 Acres. The air base site would be 55 acres; the current high school site would be 40 acres, and the old Jacksonville Middle School is 35 acres, according to architects.

If the board decided to build on the air base site, the district could sell either the old high school, the old middle school, or both.

Developers have been particularly interested in the old middle school on Main Street for a retail and restaurant mall, said Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher. That would be helpful to the city, which gets 65 percent of its revenues from local sales taxes.


Tentatively, the JNPSD Partnership Program Projects include:

2017-2019, year one —

 Replace Jacksonville High School

 Combine Jacksonville and North Pulaski high schools.

 Convert North Pulaski High building to a middle school.

2017-2019, year two —

 Replace Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools

 Combine students into one new elementary school.

2019-2021 —

n Elementary school additions/renovations.


Newly elected school board members — the elections have not been certified yet, nor new members sworn — Jim Moore, Marcia Dornblaser and Dena Toney attended the meeting.

Current members are Board President Daniel Gray, Vice President Ron McDaniel, Secretary Carol Miles — all of whom were reelected — Richard Moss and Robert Price, who won’t be on the new board.

In addition to Bock, WER architects Russell Fason and Ngozi “Nome” Brown presented.

Baldwin & Shell was represented by Central Arkansas President Bobby Gosser and Central Arkansas Vice President Tony Curtis.

Aaron Robinson represented Bond Engineering, and Col. William Brooks was there for Little Rock Air Force Base.

In addition to Wood, Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Owoh and Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart represented the district, as did attorney Scott Richardson.