Friday, December 04, 2015

EDITORIAL >> School plan impressive

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District officials know that a new high school will have to make a strong statement architecturally, as well as academically, in order to make the city’s school system first rate.

Difficulties are sure to arise, but, if the school board remains focused, as they appeared to be in a Tuesday night meeting, all challenges can be overcome.

The board discussed how the new high school should look. It will be built on the long-neglected campus of the old middle schools near Hwy. 67/167 and Main Street.

They don’t want a cheap metal building. They asked an architect from the WER firm in Little Rock to come up with something tasteful that has classical influences and a modern look, such as the grand Esther D. Nixon Library, to help inspire urban renewal downtown.

The architect presented the board with renderings of a three-story, 60,000- to 80,000-square-foot building with modern sports facilities.

To get the school built, residents will have to increase the millage rate from 40.7 to 48.3. That will amount to about $152 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home. It will also help raise $45 million for the district that’s trying its best to improve academics, facilities and stabilize its financing while it breaks away from the Pulaski County Special School District that essentially bilked Jacksonville residents of their taxes and abandoned the city’s schools for decades.

Residents voted overwhelmingly to exit PCSSD last year. Now they’ll have to vote again to reaffirm their support for giving the city’s schools a new start. If they reject the tax increase, property values may decline as young families look to nearby communities with better schools. In that case, the new district will be forced to take the thrifty route, and, at best, it would build a few unappealing schools and try to fix up the rest.

The new school board has shown its commitment to revitalizing downtown. They know the new district has the potential to breathe new life into other facets of the city’s economy. A beautiful new school downtown will be visible from Hwy. 67/167 and give more people a reason to live in and visit the area.

The school district is also restoring the old dilapidated Jacksonville Police Department to use as its headquarters. That project will cost about $350,000.

We hope all types of other construction projects will follow and, with them, a rebirth of Jacksonville.