Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

TOP STORY >> Schools get building funds

Leader staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District officials, told previously that the district’s fiscal-distress designation disqualified it from transitional facilities repair funds, learned Monday that the state had conditionally approved reimbursements totaling about $264,000.

That includes $217,000 toward construction of a new gymnasium for Robinson Middle School in west Little Rock.
“I’m grinning ear to ear,” James Warren, assistant superintendent for support services, said Tuesday.

“It was the best news I ever had, the best birthday present I could have gotten,” said Warren, who turned 55 Monday.
Cabot and Springdale were the big winners among the state’s districts. Cabot was conditionally approved for $3.4 million in reimbursements, Beebe for $1.4 million and Lonoke for $484,000.

The balance of the money conditionally earmarked for PCSSD was for roof replacements at Jacksonville Elementary, Cato Elementary School, Lawson Elementary in Little Rock, the Oak Grove High School band building and Mills High School in Little Rock.

Because of the district’s relatively high wealth index, those reimbursements represent only 18 percent of the cost of the projects.
Warren, who said he had been criticized for repairing the roofs without assurance of any reimbursement because of fiscal-distress sanctions against the district, said he gambled and won.

Education Department spokes-man Julie Thompson first said Tuesday that PCSSD was excluded because it was on fiscal distress, then backtracked, saying that the state’s Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation Com-mission must have agreed to help fund those projects because the state had accepted the district’s improvement plan.

The commission Monday conditionally approved $86 million for building projects, money divided among 210 projects.

The $3.4 million earmarked for Cabot includes $1 million to add 21 new elementary-school classrooms, $1.9 million to add on to the high school and $366,639 to switch to high-efficiency lighting throughout the district.

The additional elementary school classrooms are at Magness Creek and Ward Central elementary schools, according to Cabot Superintendent Frank Holman.

He said the district had applied for partial reimbursement of about $4 million on the $6.8 million worth of improvements.

The commission has conditionally agreed to reimburse the Beebe School District about $1.4 million for three projects.
“We had four projects ap-proved,” said Superintendent Be-linda Shook. “Three already are completed, and one is due for completion early this summer.”

The state will reimburse Beebe 63 percent of approved costs.

The three completed jobs in-clude a renovation at the McRae Middle School, turning a vocational building into classrooms, computer labs and a library, Shook said.

“We also totally renovated our elementary building, wiring, whole inside, new cabinets and flooring,” she said. “It’s like a new building. And we renovated an old maintenance building into a high school physical-education building that doubles as a shuttle bus drop off.”

Next summer, the district should complete adding classrooms and a computer and choir room to its ninth- and 10th-grade high school building, Shook said.

Lonoke Assistant Superinten-dent John Tackett said Tuesday he hadn’t been told how much the district would receive in transitional funds, but the commission conditionally awarded Lonoke $484,011 toward its new middle school, according to the table of reimbursements.