Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

TOP STORY >>District gets final check to rebuild

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Students and teachers at Cabot Junior High North received good news from Superintendent Dr. Frank Holman Friday morning when he announced a $10 million settlement with the insurance company had been reached to rebuild the school after last August’s fire.

“We have a timeline in place to move forward with demolition and start drawing plans,” Holman told The Leader Tuesday. “We’ll open construction bids in May and hopefully by fall 2008 we will start school in a new building.” The district had previously received $7 million from Great American Insurance Company of Ohio, the district’s insurance company, for the eight-year-old, $9 million Junior High North that burned to the ground following the Aug. 10 fire that was ignited by a faulty light fixture.

Great American had first offered an $8 million settlement to rebuild, reusing the walls left standing from the fire, Holman said.

“We kept resisting that offer because we didn’t want walls not structurally sound and full of smoke,” Holman said. “We finally agreed on $10 million; with that and state funding it should not cost the district very much,” he said. The school board added CJHN to the district’s master plan in January, allowing the district to apply for state funds to rebuild the school through a partnership program with the Arkansas Department of Education’s Arkansas Division of Public Schools Academic Facilities and Transportation Commission.

The district will know by May 1 whether state funding will be received. With the partnership program, the cost of construction is shared between the state and district in a 60/40 split. Holman said costs for the new campus would be either $16 million or $25 million depending on the size and if the district increases enrollment at the school. “It will cost $16 million if we build for 1,200 students, or $25 million if we build for 1,500 students,” Holman said.

Demolition on the remains of CJHN began Monday and Holman said he hopes that by next week the damaged structure will no longer be standing. “It feels good to settle this part and move forward,” Holman said. The 1,200 displaced students have been attending classes all year in trailers set up between the tennis courts and the CJHN gym. It is costing the school district $40,000 per month to rent the more than 30 trailers used to house the students.