Leader Blues

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cabot schools see 2,000 jump

Leader staff writer

Cabot schools have seen an increase of nearly 2,000 students since 2002, Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman said Tuesday during the annual report to the public.

As of Sept. 19, 327 new students have entered the district, making the district total 9,300 strong for kindergarten through 12th-grade. There are also 260 students participating in the district’s pre-kindergarten program.

With all that growth and the prospect of even more students in years to come as the city’s population climbs towards 25,000, Cabot schools must look to the future to decide where to house all the students.

The district’s next big building project is rebuilding Cabot Junior High North, lost to an electrical fire last August.
Bid openings for the 134,000 square-foot campus will be held Oct. 4; construction is scheduled to take 18 months to complete.

The new two-story CJHN, at a total projected cost of $18.5 million, of which the district must pay about $3 million, will be capable of holding 1,200 students; there are currently 1,134 Junior High North students attending classes on the Cabot High School campus, mostly in portable buildings.

Although the design has places available to add more space down the road if needed, it doesn’t have that much, according to assistant superintendent Jim Dalton.

In order to plan for additional space, the district must update its facilities master plan to “allow for the long-term and not the here and now,” Thurman said.

“What new construction do we want to see? What do we want to see in the district in the next five, 10 or 15 years? What existing renovations can take place at our facilities?” he said as he addressed those in attendance Tuesday.

Additional classrooms are on the drawing board at the elementary and junior high school level to accommodate the expected growth.

The idea of reconfiguring the schools 10-15 years down the road to use existing facilities is also a possible option, Thurman said.

The district is also planning for new technology in the classrooms.

“Technology continues to progress and we want to stay as current and up-to-date as possible,” he said.

But before the district makes any decisions relating to the master plan, Thurman has asked for the public’s involvement through a task force made up of community members, city council members or anyone interested in the future of the Cabot schools.

Gathering members for the task force is ongoing; the first meeting is tentatively scheduled for Friday, Oct. 26.

“The patrons need to be involved because these plans will be way down the road and everyone needs to be on-board as we make these changes in the district,” he said.

As Thurman said, there are many issues facing the Cabot district and, instead of working in isolation, the district needs to partner with the patrons in the decision making process.

“It is much easier to move forward and deal with issues when a cross section of the community has had the opportunity to provide feedback to the board,” Thurman said. “It is also important for the public to understand that while we’d like to make everyone happy with every decision that is made, this will be impossible. We will work together to ensure that our district remains very successful.”

In other business:

• Sheriff Jim Roberson swore in Jim Coy and Ken Kincade, winners of the Sept. 18 school board election.
This is the first term on the Cabot School Board for Kincade and Coy’s second term.

Kincade, 35, is a 1990 Cabot High School honor graduate and is an executive vice-president at Pinnacle Structures, Inc. A resident of Cabot since he was eight years old, he is married and has three boys – a six year old, a four year old and a seven-and-a-half month old.

Coy, 45, has lived in the Cabot district for 13 years and is a sales executive for Acxiom Corporation. He is the father of a Cabot High School junior. During his previous five-years on the board, he has served as chairman of the policies, personnel, and curriculum and instruction committees.