Leader Blues

Monday, August 20, 2007

TOP STORY >>Building schools in Cabot resumes

Leader staff writer

As one building project is completed, Cabot Public Schools move forward with their next big project – rebuilding Cabot Junior High North, which was lost to a fire last August.

At this time last year the district was working on a solution to where the roughly 1,200 displaced JHN students would attend class after the Aug. 10, 2006 electrical fire destroyed the eight-year-old school, but Friday the school board learned reconstruction could possibly begin in late September.

Assistant superintendent Jim Dalton told the board during a committee meeting that the state had approved the footprint for the new two-story structure, the dirt work had already been started and the building plans were ready to go.

Dalton met with Doug Eaton, director of the Arkansas Department of Education’s Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation Commission, after the committee meeting to get his blessing on the designs.
“He was easy to work with and didn’t see a problem getting his part done in the next two weeks,” Dalton said after the meeting.

Once Eaton’s part is complete, construction of the 134,000 square-foot campus could start by Sept. 27 and would take 18 months to complete.

The total projected cost to rebuild CJHN is $18.5 million. The estimated cost for the district will be about $10 million the district received in January from Great American Insurance Company of Ohio, the district’s insurance company, and the $5.2 million in catastrophic funding received through the state’s facilities division.

Architect Steve Elliot, of Lewis, Elliott and Studer, Inc. in Little Rock, designed the new school, as well as Cabot High School and the new Stagecoach Elementary School, and delivered the 150 pages of plans during the committee meeting.

He said after the state gives their final approval, within two weeks of bids being accepted for the construction, one would be able to see the building started.

“Just about the time they finish the dirt work we’ll be ready to start construction,” Elliot said.

The new CJHN will be rebuilt on the hill with facilities capable of holding 1,200 students. There will be 51,850-square-foot classrooms to meet the new building standards, increasing the classroom size by 100-square feet. It will have a sprinkler system, meet the indoor air-quality standards and have a larger cafeteria to hold more students.

The design also has places available to add more space down the road if needed but not that much, Dalton said. The design utilizes current parking and buildings. The vocational building, multi-purpose building and physical-education building were left intact after the fire destroyed the rest of the campus. Junior High North students attended classes last year in trailers set up between the tennis courts and CJHN gym at a cost of $40,000 a month in rent for the more than 30 trailers.

Beginning Monday, CJHN students will attend school on the north end of the high school campus. Ninth-graders will attend classes at the end of the north wing of the high school building, which is closest to the current JHN principal’s complex. Seventh- and eighth-graders will attend class in K, S, and the old high school media center and 15 portable classrooms.