It's official: BV board approves plan for new high school

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Berryville School Board officially announced plans to pursue construction of a new high school at its Monday meeting.

The board had previously met for a work session on Nov. 17, to discuss changing the focus of the district's construction plan from a new middle school to a new high school.

The board had decided to look into a proposal involving the construction of a new 98,000-square-foot high school for grades 10 through 12 on the east campus, which contains the current middle and high schools; new 22,000-square-foot cafeterias for both the middle and high schools; and new 22,000-square-foot media centers for both the middle and high schools. The proposal also includes renovating and converting the 1942 high school into an administration building.

Additionally, the proposal involves the demolition of the middle school's west wing, the media center, the cafeteria, the back of the 1942 high school and the small buildings around the campus.

While high school students would move into the new building, middle school students would remain in their current building, and fifth-graders would be relocated to the east annex on the east campus to free up classrooms at the intermediate school and accommodate the rising enrollment on the west campus, where the elementary and intermediate schools and Bobcat Arena are located.

According to Dr. Charles Stein of CStein, LLC, former director of the Arkansas Division of Public Schools Academic Facilities and Transportation, the estimated total cost of the proposal would be about $24 million. With about $11 million expected from state funding, he said the cost to the district would be about $13 million. To cover the expenses, he said the district would need to pass a resolution asking voters for a millage increase of about 5 mills in September 2017.

Powell said the district will have to submit a new master plan for facilities to the Arkansas Division of Public Schools Academic Facilities and Transportation's Partnership Program by Feb. 1, 2017, to get the plans for a new high school approved. Before that time, he said the district and board will hold meetings with the community to receive their feedback on the project and develop a new master plan that addresses the construction details.

"We need to make that decision publicly official, so I can go down in January and ask for the official change with the state department," Powell said.

Also at the meeting, the board voted to grant the city of Berryville a right-of-way easement for the proposed extension of Freeman Avenue past the Bobcat Arena. Mayor Tim McKinney said the proposed extension will connect the street to Highway 62 and allow access to the planned city soccer fields. The street will be three lanes, he said, to allow for a turn lane.

The board had voted to table action on the easement at its Nov. 21 meeting until hearing whether other property owners would be granting easements to the city for the project.

McKinney presented the board members with engineers' maps of the proposed street extension Monday night and said that the other property owners are on board with the project. The street will cut through the southwestern corner of the school's property, he said.

"We have applied for a $250,000 state aid grant for this road, and this is the design we're submitting," he said. "I don't anticipate any issues. I don't think this will negatively affect the development of your property in any way long-term. I think it will enhance it."

Board member Chad Hipps asked if the property will still belong to the school.

"If we grant this easement, the city cannot come in here and build something because it still belongs to the school, correct?" he asked.

McKinney said the easement allows the city to build only the road.

"That's all we're asking for," he said.

Powell said he did not believe the easement would affect the district's future construction plans.

"If anything, it helps us," he said. "That corner the street comes back on is wooded and rocky. I can't see it being worth a whole lot. If we build anything, it won't be on any of this portion of land."

The board also let a motion to approve the purchase of a lawnmower for the football program that may exceed $10,000 die on the table.

The board had previously tabled the motion at its Oct. 24 meeting after concerns were raised that the price of the lawnmower was too high.

Board member LeeAnn Ashford asked what the football program will have to do if it does not have a new lawnmower. Powell said the district could revisit the issue in March and look into some cheaper lawnmowers.

"We will need a lawnmower by the second or third week of March when the grass starts growing again," he said. "If we buy a mower right now, we're going to store it for four months, and one thing we don't have is storage space."

Board president David Waller said that the issue would go back to Powell's office to look into new bids.

"If we don't take any action on this, it goes back to Powell's court," Waller said.

Powell said the purchase had come before the board because the price was near $10,000, and any purchases of $10,000 or more must have board approval.

"I want to make sure anything that's close is brought to the board in case shipping or tax puts it above $10,000," he said. "That's one thing we got an audit finding on in the past, so I want to make sure we're transparent with these purchases."

Powell said the district would need to make sure it gets exactly the equipment it needs because it has to mow three football fields two or three times a week during the height of growing season in the summer.

"We went with a cheaper lawnmower last time, which is why we already need a new one," he said. "We need to make sure we're getting exactly what we need."

The board's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, in the Intermediate School Cafetorium.

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