Education

Funding for new Peake campus gets nod

By Joel Phelps
The Arkadelphian

A new elementary campus is well on its way to being a dream come true for Arkadelphia Public Schools.

The Arkadelphia Board of Education on Tuesday voted 5-0 to enter into a project agreement with the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation.

The $27.4 million project will be funded by $15 million in bonds (prior to the action the school board voted in favor of a resolution authorizing the bonds, to be repaid annually at $1.9 million), $4.6 million from ESSER funds, $4.4 million from funds the state has pledged, and $3.3 million from the district’s operating fund.

Architects are in the process of finalizing the blueprints, then the district will have to get authorization from the City of Arkadelphia to move forward with the construction prior to razing the old campus on Pine Street. The Community Safe Room and historic Peake Rosenwald campus will remain. The new campus will keep its namesake, asserted school board president Casey Motl (following a February meeting, The Arkadelphian quoted board member Blake Bell as saying, “Peake will be Peake, end of discussion. And everything on that block will be Peake.”) Bell was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Feds no longer funding meals for all students
Beginning June 30, school meals will no longer be federally subsidized for all students, a measure that went into effect during the Covid-19 pandemic that allowed all students to eat school meals for free regardless of their parents’ income.

Those eligible for free meals based on their parents’ household income will still receive free meals, and Arkadelphia Schools will still provide free meals to those under 18 during its summer feeding program.

Tammy Barger, the school district’s business manager, urged the board to consider a “what if” scenario in case some parents fail to pay for their students’ meals. Barger cautioned that there is currently no mechanism in place to collect those funds.

Paying for the new turf
The school board also gave its approval to a resolution authorizing the sale of $856,356 in non-bonded debt from Stephens to pay for a new artificial turf at Badger Stadium.

Stephens received two bids — one from Southern Bancorp, and one from Citizens Bank. The board OK’d Stephens’ recommendation to use Southern Bancorp.

The debt will be repaid annually at $104,000 over the next 10 years. The district has the option to repay the debt in full after the first year.

Bypass right-of-way
Clark Tennyson said the $41,000 proposal from the state to purchase 7 acres of district-owned land for a right-of-way for the Arkadelphia Bypass “is not a bad offer.” The school district has the option to sell the timber on that land prior to the transaction, but it can be hard to get a logging crew to move machinery for such a small parcel of land.

Tennyson explained that the timber could be sold in addition to what the state will pay for the land’s total value. Tennyson, who works in the timber industry, vowed not to be part of any timber sale but offered to assist in talking to contractors as a sort of liason to the board. He suggested the district try to sell timber on 20 acres of the 70-acre tract, leaving the north 50 acres in hopes that the district would take interest in curriculum based around timber or wildlife management.

Based on Tennyson’s math in the current timber market, harvesting 20 acres of the mixed forest would net “roughly” $60,000 for the school district.

Personnel report
Following an executive session that lasted about 30 minutes, the school board approved the following personnel recommendations:

Resignations:

Annalee Diehl, Goza math teacher

Rhonda Shearer, AHS secretary/bookkeeper

Certified employment:

Elizabeth Morris, AHS counselor

Benson Jordan, Goza assistant football coach and teacher

John Garrett Garner, AHS head senior high boys basketball coach

Classified employment:

Tesha Bolton, part-time bus driver

Jana Wright, Robert Burton and Vilesia Hall, full-time bus drivers

Reassignments:

Jon Mark Page, from full-time bus driver to part-time bus driver

Student expulsion
Board member Kenneth Harris opposed a student expulsion. The student was expelled for the remainder of the school year but was to receive virtual learning. Harris shook his head when he learned this fact, and Motl laughed at the length of the expulsion.

Leave a Reply