Friday, July 15, 2016

EDITORIAL >> District readies for its first year

Thirty days and counting until the doors of Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District open for the first time—an amazing timeline and trajectory since U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall approved a desegregation settlement agreement in early 2014 that allowed for the new district.

The local election approving a standalone district passed with 95 percent of the vote that September, and suddenly, two years later, it’s almost time to buy school supplies.

The district has a roadmap for the way forward. A crew will remove asbestos from the former middle school, and demolition will begin by the beginning of August.

That’s the future site of the new Jacksonville High School. Architects are beginning to draw it up in earnest and expect to have prospective plans and cost estimates in time for the October board meeting.

Simultaneously, they will be working on plans for a new elementary school on Little Rock Air Force Base to replace both Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementaries. The new elementary school should open in August 2018, the new high school in August 2019.

While most districts the size of JNPSD had to replace maybe 10 or 15 percent of staff, the new district has had to fill every single slot, from superintendent to custodian—about 450.

Despite dire predictions and rumors, at last count, the district had only 17 teachers and other licensed jobs to fill and a handful of bus drivers and custodians, Superintendent Tony Wood said Friday.

The elementary school-supply lists can be found at the district website,, or retailers large and small, including Walmart and Kroger.

There’s still a lot to be done—the school calendar on the website shows only school board meetings and the beginning of the school year, but if the new district was a new house, that would be one of many punch-list items.

The road-trip bus needs a Trojan logo, but all 78 buses have the district name on the side.

“Now we’re starting to look at isolated details of being prepared to welcome kids back in (four) weeks,” he said.

“There are just a lot of moving parts,” Wood said, including creation of logistically sound bus routes, separation of property—books, computers, desks, for instance—from PCSSD, financial transfers and the sale of school and support buildings by PCSSD to the new district.

To all you kindergarten and elementary school parents, it’s time to start shopping for the needed school supplies at many of your local grocers and big box stores. Enjoy the rest of your summer.