Tuesday, November 03, 2015

TOP STORY >> Downtown site chosen

Leader senior staff writer

The new Jacksonville-North Pulaski High School will be built at the prominent downtown site of the old middle school, the JNP Board voted Monday night. But, based on an enrollment decline, it will not be quite as large as originally envisioned.

The Oct. 1 high school enrollment figures for Jacksonville and North Pulaski high schools are down 291 students from a year ago, according to Superintendent Tony Wood.

Based on the actual high school enrollment and allowing for a 15 percent anticipated growth over 10 years, the school will be sized for 1,400 students — 300 less than the previous estimate of 1,700, Wood said.

That’s a decrease of about 5.5 percent.

The decrease in enrollment means the new building will be smaller to accommodate both state standards and the state’s willingness to partner with the district, according to Fred Levy, facilities and state partnership consultant.

Levy said architects will adjust the building design to include fewer classrooms and possibly fewer science labs, and that the kitchen/cafeteria and auditorium would be smaller as well.

Levy said the school could still be built larger, but that the state partnership program, which is expected to pay about 45 percent of the cost of qualifying academic space, would not be available for those extra spaces.


The board also voted to set a 7.6-mill tax increase election for Feb. 9, for a total property-tax millage of 48.3.

The tax would raise $46 million to be repaid over 25 years, according to Scott Beardsley, the district’s public finance consultant.

The board also adopted a local support resolution for its 2016 six-year facilities master plan and academic facilities partnership program.

It consists of a new elementary school on Air Base property, a new high school at the old middle school site and building multipurpose buildings for all other elementary schools.


While school board members Carol Miles and LaConda Watson said their constituents preferred to build at the site of the current high school, the vote for the middle school site was unanimous, contingent upon the city’s willingness to close Sharp Drive, which runs through the property.

Mayor Gary Fletcher assured the board that the city council would agree to close the drive, but that a public hearing must be held first.

At least two council members on hand, Reedie Ray and James Bolden, said they didn’t anticipate a problem.

Fletcher said closing Sharp Drive from Main to School streets would create some inconvenience, but “the return outweighs the inconvenience.”

He said traffic would adapt to the change, much of it using Hospital Street.

He said that the decision would probably be finalized in December and that the drive would remain open until construction begins.

He said city planners he met with recently advised that the middle school site would be best for future development of downtown Jacksonville.


The city of Jacksonville has agreed to lease the old police station to the district for use as an administration building. The amount of the lease will be negligible, but the cost of reconfiguring and dealing with structural issues could be high, according to JNP Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart.

Throwing out a number, she suggested that even if renovation costs $300,000, that’s $30,000 a year, less than rent on a suitable administration building.

Stewart said she hopes the administration will move into that building by March 1.

Wood presented the board with 189 pages of proposed policies concerned with certified and classified personnel, including hiring. He said the board needs to adopt those personnel policies at the next meeting so they could begin advertising, reviewing, interviewing and hiring personnel, particularly principals and central office staff.

You have your homework, he told them.


He reminded the board that the new district is bound by the Plan 2000 desegregation agreement and that included establishing a biracial interview committee and the responsibility of reaching out to minority candidates.

He said the district would go online late this month and in early December, advertising for administrative positions, and he hopes to have the board policy in place.

“I hope to come back in February with recommendations for principals and begin the interviews in early December,” he said. “It’s essential that building principals have a strong voice in hiring the assistants.”

He hopes to have recommendations for some certified positions in March.

Wood reported that the state would help pay for high speed Internet.


He announced that the district has launched its website, with the support of the Jacksonville Education Foundation. While it’s pretty limited right now, the address is www.JNPSD.org.

After satisfying the concerns of Watson and Miles, the board unanimously accepted Wood’s recommendation that it use a consent agenda format for its monthly board meetings.

That format groups uncontroversial things that can been approved in one vote, but any board member may request that specific items be removed.

Among the arguments in favor of the middle school site was the relative proximity of a large portion of the residences. That’s easier on families and satisfies the Joshua Intervenors as being accessible to minority students.

Also, it is seen as a statement about the town — a shiny new high school in the downtown area and visible from Hwy. 67/167.

Col. William Brooks, an ex officio board member, spoke passionately about dreaming big and looking further down the road, suggesting that the land the Defense Department would make available met those criteria and also helped further cement the base and the community’s relationship.