Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

TOP STORY>> District is awaiting report on facilities

IN SHORT: Teams from the Department of Education are halfway through evaluating school districts applying for immediate repair funding.

The Cabot School District will find out in mid-September if it gets any of the $1,559,945 million requested for facilities repair, including asbestos removal at Westside Elementary and the high school.

Five evaluation teams of architects and engineers are fanning out across the state to examine buildings of the 142 school districts applying for part of $20 million in state funding. The money was set aside by the General Assembly this spring to fix facilities in immediate need of repair as part of the first round of facilities funding.

Cabot was one of the first schools visited by an evaluation team in early July.

Westside Elementary and Champs Hall on the high school campus have asbestos floor tiles that need removal.

Additionally, Champs Hall needs a new roof, new wiring and a new heating, ventilation and cooling system.

Buildings “C” and “D” on the high school campus are scheduled for demolition in 2006 after the new high school construction is completed.

The buildings require asbestos removal before they are torn down.

The district is also requesting new roofs at Cabot Middle School South and Ward Central Elementary.

The evaluation teams are checking the repairs listed on the funding applications against the deficiencies listed in the facilities study conducted last year by the Arkansas Task Force to Joint Committee on Educational Facilities.

“Our survey teams are roughly halfway through,” said Dave Floyd, director of the Arkansas Department of Education Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation Division.
“They’ve evaluated 70 schools so far. We have a target date of the first week in September to make recommendations to the commission for funding of projects.

The evaluation team surveys are expected to be complete by Aug. 22.

“The teams are all Arkansas-based firms,” said Dave Floyd, director of school facilities.
“The team sizes vary depending on how large the surveyed buildings are.”

The three Little Rock-based architectural firms include Taggart Foster Currence Gray, Steelman Connell Mosley and Woods Carradine.

The teams have divided the schools up by regional sections.

Little Rock based TME Consulting Engineers is providing all the engineering evaluations for the surveys except for northwest Arkansas.

Harrison French Architecture in Bentonville is doing both the architectural and engineering surveys for the schools in the northwest corner of the state.

The four firms were selected for not being heavily involved in school district construction.

Firms will be allowed to work for the districts they did not evaluate.
The three-member Public School Commission will review the recommendations. Schools that receive funding will be announced in mid-September.

The commission consists of Ken James, state Department of Education commissioner; Richard Weiss, state Department of Finance and Administration director, and Mac Dobson, president of the Arkansas Finance Development Authority.

The Beebe School District did not apply for funding because it was earmarked for schools with immediate safety needs.

Beebe Superintendent Belinda Shook the district will apply for funding during the next round to offset the cost of adding on to the junior high building.