Leader Blues

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

WED 7-5-6 EDITORIAL >> A tale of two schools

Jacksonville will get its own school district. State law has said so. Two consultant studies have said so and the residents of Jacksonville have said so.

The question is what havoc the over-stuffed egos that run the Pulaski County Special School District will cause between now and then. They’ll probably go to court to stop such foolish notions.

While the Cabot School District builds spanking-new schools every couple of years (including a $13.9 million high school set to open next month), the newest school in the Jacksonville area is 30 years old this year, and some of the school buildings are more than 60 years old.

Will Jacksonville see new buildings or major renovation in the upcoming years? If we look at PCSSD history, the answer is probably not.

And through it all, the only ones who get hurt are the kids.

A few years ago, Jacksonville made a bid for its own school district, and the county district, rather than doing what was right for the kids, took Jacksonville to court (at taxpayers’ expense) to get a ruling that said no dice to Jacksonville. And to get the ruling, the district flaunted its failures to get out from under federal court supervision—as long as the courts are monitoring the district, no major boundary changes are allowed.

Then as added retribution, it put students at Murrell Taylor Elementary in jeopardy.

Jacksonville asked the board to allow it to annex the school, along with other property in the area into the city. The other property owners said yes and were annexed. The PCSSD board said no, making the school a county-owned island surrounded by Jacksonville. The move meant if fire or police response was needed, the school would have to call the county, rather than the city, and wait longer than it should for a response. Luckily that bonehead move didn’t cost any lives or injury.
The board finally did relent and the school is now under the police and fire coverage of the city.

The consultants’ study shows that five schools in the proposed Jacksonville district are in need of replacing, and that none of the schools projected for the North Little Rock School District are in dire straits, and only one of the schools south of the river needs replacement.

So it’s clear that the Jacksonville school buildings are the worst of the lot, but will the repair, renovation and new construction money be spent on these Jacksonville schools? Not anytime soon.

Unlike Cabot, the Pulaski County district doesn’t care about educating its kids in the northern part of the county.