The Helena-West Helena School Board gave the go ahead to architect Meryl Lewis to begin preparation of the detailed drawings necessary to solicit bids for construction of the new facility at Central High School and approved final placement and configuration of that new facility, which is projected to open in the fall of 2019.
The school board listened to a presentation from Lewis , an architect with over five decades of experience in school construction who has done projects for the Helena-West Helena School District throughout his career, explaining the need to reconfigure the building and to move it west from the original conceptual drawings due to floodway maps received from the Corp of Engineers.
The new location of the building will place the bulk of the new area west of School Road. A portion of the street will be located to accommodate this change and will be routed east of the new facility. Mr. Lewis said, “This will move the facility to land the district owns at a higher elevation and allow a configuration of the space envisioned that will make it easier to expand the building if needed.”
Board President Andrew Bagley and Superintendent John Hoy both endorsed the architect’s recommendations. Bagley said, “This drawing improves upon our original ideas. We can expand the building more easily in the event that the district sees increased enrollment in the future. Only the athletic facilities will be in the floodplain, which will minimize the amount of dirt work necessary after demolition of the current structures.”
Hoy added, “This plan keeps our promises to the community regarding what we would build while making the needed adjustments regarding placement and configuration.”
The school board also voted to approve the last legal items necessary for Stephens, Inc. to sell the bonds necessary for construction.
Bagley said, “I can’t thank the voters of the community enough for making this possible, and I can’t wait for us to get started. It looks like the interest rate climate is going to be favorable when these bonds go out for sale in the next few weeks.”
Mr. Hoy also recommended to the Board passage of funding for ACT preparation classes and for summer school items, which were unanimously approved by the board. Hoy also reported on the success of the Barton reading program that the district implemented. Hoy showed the board data that reflected multi-year gains in reading levels for those students receiving the services of that program. Hoy said, “We have a program that is working. I plan to look for ways to deploy existing staff so that more students who need this assistance with reading skills receive it.”
Hoy also announced that Arkansas State University’s ASU Preschool Program, which has had a presence in the district for many years, would fund the construction of a preschool playground on the site of the new Eliza Miller Building at J. F. Wahl at no cost to the district. He said, “ASU wanted to do something to help since they had been in our district for so many years at virtually no cost as a gesture of good will. We are fortunate to be able to receive this assistance since preschool playgrounds have different standards and the construction of this second playground would have been a significant expense.” The school board has already approved the money necessary to move existing playground equipment from the current Eliza Miller campus to J. F. Wahl for the K-6th grade students.
The school board also unanimously approved modifications to the policies regulating its governance to reflect recent changes in the law. These were all passed unanimously.