Friday, May 12, 2017

EDITORIAL >> New school in Sherwood

Residents in the Pulaski County Special School District will vote June 13 to extend – not raise – the current millage rate for 17 more years.

If it succeeds, and we think it’s important it does, then Sherwood can transform the aging and overcrowded Sylvan Hills High School into a $65 million modern campus.

Sherwood residents seem largely in support of the plan for good reason. The campus was built in the 1960s for 800 students. These days, the school is preparing to cram in a whopping 1,450 students.

To accommodate everyone, freshmen have been transferred to the old Northwood Middle School, recently renamed Sylvan Hills Freshman Academy, way out on Jacksonville-Cato Road.

Sherwood Alderman Beverly Williams, a retired PCSSD administrator and educator, is rallying the community to support the millage extension, which means property taxes won’t increase but will remain the same and give thousands of Sherwood youth quality classrooms.

Mayor Virginia Young said, “Our school district, hand in hand with our communities, has worked very hard in the past several years to improve our schools with improved facilities throughout the district. This is not a tax increase. The only increases anyone will experience are increases in educational opportunities, increase in safety for our students and increase in business growth as we demonstrate that we are building our future around our youth.”

Sherwood voters, and everyone else in the Pulaski County Special School District, should vote in support of the millage extension.

It’s a bargain, as the district has the lowest tax rate in central Arkansas, and it’s the right thing to do. It will also help continue Sherwood’s growth, protect home values and spur new construction.

Without quality schools, communities will stagnate.

Like any election though, this one is not without risks. Sherwood’s future is depending on voters from other communities within the sprawling Pulaski County Special School District. People in Maumelle and south of the river may not be as enthusiastic about Sherwood’s needs.

Little Rock voters rejected a millage extension this week because anti-tax opponents joined forces with a band of residents angry that the state education commissioner, rather than an elected school board, would decide where new schools should be built. The state Education Department seized control of the Little Rock School District, firing school board members, nearly two and a half years ago. Critics worry west Little Rock will benefit more than old parts of the city.

PCSSD, recently released from state control, has seen plenty of that kind of geographical division. We hope those days are behind us.

The rewards are clear. Architects presented a series of drawings of the proposed Sylvan Hills project during the Pulaski County Special School Board meeting Tuesday. It will be a beautiful campus — lots of windows, natural light, state-of-the-art classrooms and science labs, and a new gymnasium, football field and cafeteria.

The old buildings will be remodeled while several new buildings will be constructed around them at the school’s current site west of Hwy. 107. It will become a place of learning for decades to come. It will be a prized asset of the community.

A rally was held Wednesday at Sylvan Hills High to build support for the millage extension. Cheering students waving placards and school administrators spoke jubilantly about the future and their desire to rebuild their crumbling school.

Vote yes on June 13.