Leader Blues

Monday, April 23, 2007

TOP STORY >>New school will cause changes in attendance

IN SHORT: Parents might be taking their children to a different elementary school in August.

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Parents of Cabot elementary students might be taking their children to different elementary schools in August after the Cabot School District completes its rezoning plan.

Two public meetings will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 24 and Thursday, April 26 at the Cabot High School Loft to talk with parents about the district’s rezoning issue and seeing what ideas parents have on the matter.

Cabot’s seven elementary schools are being rezoned to pull students into the new 83,313 square-foot Stagecoach Elementary, which will be completed in August.

In 2006-2007, Cabot’s elementary school enrollment ranged from 385 to 640. After redrawing the attendance boundaries to include Stagecoach Elementary, enrollment at all but one elementary school will be 450; Magness Creek’s enrollment will be closer to 500.

The current rezoning draft was shown and discussed Thursday night during the Cabot School Board meeting.

Changed boundary lines in the firstdraft of the rezoning map will change attendance zones for all elementary schools.
Some zones are slightly changed while others are drastically increased or decreased to allow for Stagecoach Elementary.

Cabot students living in the Butlerville area, while currently split between Ward Central and Eastside elementaries depending on which side of Hwy. 38 they live, will all go to Stagecoach in the draft version.

Central Elementary’s zone has drastically decreased while Southside’s has shifted to include up to Hwy. 67/167.

Students living in the Parnell area will still be at Southside, but those from Oak Grove, currently also at Southside, will attend Stagecoach.

Sylvania area students will still attend Eastside Elementary.

Superintendent Dr. Frank Holman said the district had considered many variables while working on the redrawn attendance boundaries.

“We looked at traffic flow with input from the mayor, police chief and county judge; at the safety and security issues, and how to keep enrollment at 400 to 550 per school,” Holman said.

Although he thinks the current plan is pretty good, Holman said they would spend time talking about it with parents at the public meetings held in the coming week.
Work is ongoing at Cabot’s $6.6 million elementary school near Campground and Stagecoach roads. Brick work began last week, half of the roof is in place, the heating and air units are going in, and the painters are expected to start work next week.
“We feel good about the timeline and the progress,” Holman said. “Our construction people do an amazing job,” he added.
Other district construction is also going well.

The high school’s multipurpose building, CHAMPS Hall, will be ready for the start of the new school year. Career and technical classes will be held in CHAMPS Hall starting in August.

Although the plan was to move in before school was out this year, the district decided to replace the old carpet with tile to make it much better.

“It’s an outstanding building and it’s going to look great,” Holman said.

In other business, the school board approved three recommendations — two by the board’s building and grounds committee and one by Kelly Hayes, district comptroller.
n The building and grounds committee, headed by Brooks Nash, made the recommendation to accept the state’s offer of $5.2 million to help rebuild the burned down Cabot Junior High North and move forward with the rebuilding process.

Work will begin on the $18.5 million two-story junior high on July 1 with an estimated 18-24 months needed for construction.

“We’re talking about 1,200 kids enrollment maximum,” Nash said. “That’s the bad part because we have 1,075 kids enrolled at Junior High North now. If we want to build that thing bigger and accommodate 300 more kids, the state’s not going to help us, and that will mean $3 million more dollars,” Nash said.

Some work has already been done on the site, demolition was completed in March and blueprints for the new school have already been drawn up.

n The second recommendation from the building and grounds committee was to accept the city’s offer to lease the old post office and portions of the old Community Bank building for the district’s use.

The high school’s museum would be housed in the old post office. The museum has been in storage for the last three and a half years.

The district’s charter school, the Academic Center of Excellence (ACE) or the Alternative Learning Environment (ALE) will move to the bank space. Both are currently housed at the old superintendent’s office on Locust Street.

“If one of the programs moved over there, then we would have more space to increase both programs,” Nash said.

Rent for the space would be $1,500 a month with a two-year contract; utilities would be prorated with the chamber of commerce, which has also moved into the bank building.

“We appreciate the mayor and his work and trying to really come to us about some things to help us knowing we had some needs,” Holman said. “It will be an opportunity for our community and people to see all that museum stuff,” Holman added.

n Hayes recommended moving the district’s property and vehicle insurance to the state of Arkansas for the coming year; the district’s current insurance coverage expires in June.

Nash asked if the district’s current property insurance provider, Great American Insurance Company of Ohio, had contacted Hayes about renewing their policy.

Hayes said the agent had contacted him but Hayes had not given a reply; Nash offered to reply to the agent with the district’s answer.

Great American fought the Cabot district for eight months after CJHN burned down Aug. 10, delaying a settlement and the start of rebuilding the school.

According to Holman, the district was about to sue the insurance company when a settlement for a total of $12,069,000 for the eight-year-old, $9 million school was reached in February.