Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

TOP STORY >> Builders selected for new school

By NANCY DOCKTER
Leader staff writer

Cabot School District has released the names of the sub-contractors who will be constructing the district’s ninth elementary school.

The 78,641-square-foot school will be constructed on land located on Mountain Springs Road off Hwy. 5. The total cost of the project will be $7.25 million.

The school is slated to open in fall 2010.

Steve Elliott of Lewis, Elliott and Studer Architects of Little Rock designed the school. The district will act as the general contractor.

Site work for the project has already begun. Construction of the building is expected to start in May. Paving will be bid later.

Construction of the building is estimated at $81.86 per square foot. The total per-square-foot cost, which includes land, engineering and architectural design, site work, utilities and pavement, is estimated at $92.61 per square foot.

Stage-coach Elementary School, built in 2006, cost the district $97.13 per square foot. Additional site work on that project drove up costs, but it could be that the leaner economic times led to lower pricing on the work, assistant superintendent for Cabot Jim Dalton speculated.

The median cost nationally to construct a new elementary school was $188 per square foot in 2007, according to the American School and University’s annual Official Education Construction Report.

The school is needed because of the student population kindergarten through fourth grade has grown by an average of 176 students each of the past five school years, including 2008-09.

The school will serve the Hwy. 5 and Magness Creek neighborhoods, where the fastest growth has occurred, bringing elementary schools in the area to capacity.

The school district is in the midst of negotiations with the Arkansas Department of Education about the amount of state funding is available for the project.

The two differ on projected need for classrooms over the next five years.

The state has said that funds have been approved for building a school with capacity for 480 students, but not one for 600.

Last week, the Cabot School Board voted to go ahead with the option for a larger school, because delaying for a few years would “cost double,” said Dalton.

Whether or not the district is able to persuade the state that the larger school is needed, “the funds are there; we just want to do our best in getting the state to do its part,” Dalton said.

A taxpayer-approved bond will cover the district’s share of costs.

The district will not seek federal stimulus funds for the project. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, $24.8 billion has been allocated for public school renovation, repairs and construction.

Dalton said there are questions about how much of the stimulus funds are actually available for new construction, and the district is “starting meetings now to understand what the possibilities are.

With federal money there are lots of strings attached. If it turns out they would let us apply for funds retroactively, we certainly would.”