Leader Blues

Friday, August 07, 2009

TOP STORY >> Beebe to open early childhood center

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

Gov. Mike Beebe will be the special guest for the dedication of the Beebe Early Childhood Center at 5 p.m. Monday.

The Beebe School District has completed several building projects this summer. The one that is almost certain to garner the most attention is the $10 million Early Childhood Center on South Holly that will house kindergarten and first grade.

Dr. Belinda Shook, school superintendent, said she doesnít know if the new facility is the best of its kind in the state. But she says itís bigger and better than she hoped it would be.

The 91,000-square-foot center will house up to 600 students. It has an indoor playground that will be used for physical education, art and music rooms, a 3,000-square-foot tornado shelter, a stage in the cafeteria and a smart board in every classroom. And since it was built for small children, it is painted in primary colors, Shook said.

The state paid $6.3 million for the new facility, leaving the school district to pay $3.7 million by restructuring bonds instead of raising taxes.

Hal Crisco, assistant superintendent for Beebe is over everything that doesnít pertain to academics: the grounds, buildings, furnishings and buses.

But Thursday afternoon, with just three days left before the teachers start back to work, he was doing more than directing his staff. He was helping unload the tractor trailer rig that had delivered the desks for six new classrooms at the 11th through 12th grades high school.

When time is running short, everyone pitches in, he explained about his temporary shift from administrator to laborer.

The addition, which was started at the beginning of the year, will be ready for students Aug. 19, he said. So will an addition to the field house. Although the districtís middle school for 5th and 6th grades is now on the McRae campus, the Early Childhood Center is the first facility to be built off the main campus.

Beginning this school year, there will be two elementary schools for second, third and fourth grades on the main campus: Beebe Elementary in the old primary and elementary buildings and Badger Elementary in the former intermediate building.

Intermediate school no longer exists.

Although the concept might be a bit confusing, Crisco said the signs are up on the buildings, so that should make it easier.

Traffic patterns will also be different this year, beginning with two-way traffic at all times on Badger Drive which has been one-way for many years. Crisco said maps showing the new traffic patterns will be available during open house Monday evening.

Routine summer maintenance this year included painting the interior of the 11th through 12th grades high school that is now seven years old, installing new carpet in some classrooms and new exterior doors at the middle school and Badger Elementary.

Security systems also have been updated, Crisco said.