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School board OKs $26M budget to build new Peake campus

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

IRON MOUNTAIN — A new K-4 school campus will cost Arkadelphia Public Schools a little over $26 million. In a special-called meeting Friday morning at the Iron Mountain Marina conference center, the Arkadelphia Board of Education approved an inflation-proof budget to construct the new Peake Elementary School campus.

In its discussions the school board agreed to shave $362,000 from the overall project, opting against a 12-foot-wide shade canopy that would have connected the eastern and western wings of the school. Cutting the canopy out of the plans knocked $340,000 off the overall price tag. The board also nixed the architect’s idea to add a metal Badger logo to the facade facing Pine Street, knocking another $22,000 off the price.

At left, Clayton Vaden of Lewis Architects Engineers explains the rendering of the new Peake Elementary School. The canopy in the foreground was removed from the plan at the school board’s behest. Also pictured is Josh Thessing of Nabholz Construction. | Joel Phelps/The Arkadelphian

The school board had the option to remove sinks from K-1 classrooms ($27,000), a stage curtain for the auditorium ($24,000), and a sound reinforcement system for classrooms ($99,000). Those features will be included in the finalized plans.

Playground equipment and classroom furniture were not costs the Little Rock-based Lewis Architect Engineers factored into the overall project. Though there was no formal action taken at Friday’s meeting, board members appeared to be in agreement to purchase new playground equipment for the new Peake campus. There was discussion of moving the equipment from Central and/or Perritt to the new campus. That would be a costly move, said Jimmy King, director of support services for the school district. King said the district was given a cost estimate of $35,000 to move the existing equipment from Central to the old Goza building, where elementary classes are taught now.

Business manager Tammy Barger said the playground equipment at Perritt was there when her daughter, now in her 30s, attended school there. Board president Blake Bell said he would not be in favor of using old equipment at a new, multi-million-dollar school campus. Other board members nodded in agreement.

The contract includes a $155,000 contingency fee, which acts as a pillow for unexpected building costs. Those funds, if not needed during construction, could be used for the purchase of playground equipment and/or furniture for the classrooms.

It was noted in Friday’s meeting that, unlike the construction of Goza Middle School, there was input for what was needed at the Peake campus, with ideas from teachers and even cafeteria workers. Facility issues at Goza came to light only after that campus had been constructed and classes were being held there. This shouldn’t be the case with Peake because of the foresight put into the preliminary design.

An architectural rendering of the new Peake campus is shown to members of the Arkadelphia Board of Education. The large Badger logo on the facade will not be included in the final plans, saving the district $22,000. | Joel Phelps/The Arkadelphian

Before the board took its vote, Barger said the district is in “good shape” financially to build the new campus, but warned board members to consider the district’s future needs. In agreement to that notion, Bell noted the district still has a “flagship” campus to build: the high school. Gina White appeared to be the lone board member who wanted to keep the canopy, saying, “I hope we’re not making a mistake.” Her argument was adding that feature later might not be the best route, using the unsightly covered walkways at the old Peake building as an example of what could happen.

Construction of the new Peake campus will take 18 months, with a projected completion date of June 2024.

Arkadelphia teachers get one-time bonus

The holidays will be a bit merrier this year for teachers at Arkadelphia Public Schools, as the school board voted unanimously in favor of a one-time $1,000 Christmas bonus for all contracted employees of the district.

The bonus will doled out to certified and classified employees but not to outsourced vendors, like those who work for the food service company.

The school district has traditionally given $150 Christmas bonuses in past years. The total cost to the district for the bonuses is $275,000.

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