By VICTORIA CALDERON
• Leader & Times
Many important decisions and discussions took place at the USD 480 Board of Education meeting Monday night. One of the most prevalent issues was the bond resolution necessary to fund the construction of the new schools in the district.
During the superintendent’s report, Brad Kiehl from the DLR Group spoke to the board about design and construction phases for the new elementary and middle school buildings. For the project, there will be three committees for planning and making quick decisions: the elementary design committee, middle school design committee, and the building and construction committee.
These committees will take the design process through its phases. The initial design phase is called the SD phase, and it was kicked off on May 7 and 8 through meetings with principals, teachers, parents and students about the new school designs.
The next phase is called the design development phase, or DD phase. This is followed by the final design phase, the construction document phase, or CD phase. Once they get through all the phases, the committees will take their decisions to the board.
These committees and a set phase schedules will, hopefully, set the project up for maximum efficiency and speed. Due to a constantly changing market, they hope to finish this project as quickly as possible.
“We’re trying to fast track a lot of this so that we can get the maximum value for each dollar that we spend,” Kiehl said.
Kiehl showed the board the design prototypes for the new schools. The elementary protoype was taken from new schools in the North Little Rock school disctrict, and the middle school prototype from the Gardner Edgerton school district.
The new elementary schools come complete with an attached athletics and commons area (stage included), media centers, music rooms and discovery centers, which are areas where “classrooms can pull out into those spaces and do collaborative learning and discovery activities,” according to Kiehl.
The schools will also have educational courtyards between classroom wings, where students can go outside into a safe space. They will also have community courtyards around the outside for other events. In the prototype, there will be a second floor for the older grades. There will also be main and internal staircases and an elevator to ensure easy access and movement around the school.
The new school buildings will be constructed in several different sites. MacArthur Elementary will be rebuilt in this new style, on the east side of the current building. Another new elementary school will be built at the intersection of Calvert and 11th Street, which is behind the retail area at 15th and Kansas, and is called the Smith site.
A new middle school will be built on Western Avenue, across from South Holly. This will be North Middle School.
The last site is still being debated. The Pine Street site, which is located behind the Hampton Inn, would be the location of both a new elementary and middle school. However, they are still working on the purchase of that land.
“As you can imagine, there are a lot of things tied up with that,” Kiehl said.
In regard to the design schedule, the Western and Pine Street schools will all be packaged together. The initial SD and DD phases are happening now and will be finished sometime in July, when the CD phase will commence. Once the CD phase is completed sometime in August, they will get the project on the street, with construction to finish soon after.
Kiehl hopes that, if construction and design stick to the schedule, the entire project should be done halfway through 2017. Even with the Pine Street complications, Kiehl still believes it can be done in time.
“Best case scenario, I think we’re looking at 86 days out. That still falls in line with the schedule if everything goes according to plan,” Kiehl said.
The business report was also given, and the board was given the information that the interest rate on the bond had gone down. Originally, the interest rate was projected to be 4.4 percent, but the actual rate will be 4.02 percent, which will accumulate over 25 years. This is predicted to save the community $20 million.
After hearing Kiehl’s report and the business report, the board had to vote on the resolution to pass the financing of the new schools. The resolution “provides for the collection of an annual tax for the purpose of paying the principle and interest on said bonds,” as read by board president Delvin Kinser.
The resolution passed 7 to 0.