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— School spirit was high Oct. 23 as a crowd gathered for the official groundbreaking for Two Rivers High School. The school, scheduled for completion in December 2009, will combine Ola and Plainview-Rover high schools.

Students - many wearing their new school colors of orange and blue and chanting part of a new fight song, "Gator Bait" - joined teachers, administrators, fellow students and dignitaries from Yell County as well as from the state Department of Education for the official groundbreaking of Two Rivers High School, located on Arkansas 28 between Plainview and Ola.

Ola and Plainview-Rover schools are part of the Two Rivers School District, which was formed in 2004, and also includes campuses at Fourche Valley and Casa.

Ray Buford, president of the Two Rivers School Board, welcomed guests and thanked those in attendance.

"As this new campus becomes a reality, I want to thank the individual school boards of Casa, Ola, Plainview-Rover and Fourche Valley districts who, three years ago, made a difficult but necessary decision to consolidate for the sake of our children and their education for the future.

"I thank the Two Rivers school board, too, for making such a bold decision," Buford said. "The building of this high school will also allow for possible expansion in the future and it will be done within the parameters set forth in the state guidelines."

Buford also extended his thanks to the parents "for trusting Two Rivers School District with the education of their children.

"We will never forget the past, but we will never fear the future," he said. "Welcome to Two Rivers High School, and 'Go, Gators.'"

In addition to Buford, other members of the Two Rivers School District Board of Directors, all present for the groundbreaking, are Bobby Smith, vice president; Sharon Hamilton, secretary; Leonard Keeling; John Young; Bob Ander-son; and Charles Hance.

Dr. Ken James, commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education, told the crowd he had visited some classrooms in the Two Rivers School District that afternoon, where he saw "how important education is for every student in Arkansas.

"What you've done here today serves that need. Your children will benefit for years to come. And when the school is finished, the students will show a great deal of pride ... the community will show that pride as well.

"What you collectively have done here will benefit these young people : I urge you to support your school, get involved, make a difference : We will continue to grow Arkansas."

Also attending the ceremony were Dr. Tom Kimbrell, executive director, Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators; state Rep. Nathan George; Yell County Judge Brad Wear; and Yell County Sheriff Bill Gilkey.

Sherry Holliman, superintendent of Two Rivers School District, said in a telephone interview, "Plans are at this point to consolidate Ola and Plainview-Rover for grades seven through 12."

Holliman said the 125,000-square-foot building will include a multipurpose building for sports such as basketball and volleyball as well as other large gatherings, a 450-seat auditorium, two science labs, a library with 20 computer stations, classrooms, cafeteria, a distance learning lab, two computer labs, a conference room, administrative offices, and an agriculture facility that will be connected to the main building but will be a facility unto itself.

Architect for the building is Biggerstaff, Minden and Hall of Russellville and the contractor is VEI General Contractors, also of Russellville. Financing was handled by Beardsley Public Finance of Little Rock. All firms were represented at the groundbreaking ceremony.

"The new school will hold 600 students," Holliman said, noting the Two Rivers School District covers 605 square miles.

Holliman said funding for the project came from $6.2 million "we had set aside and second-lien bonds for $2.5 million." Holliman said the rest of the estimated $15 million would come from the state through theArkansas Academic Facilities Partnership Fund.

"The faculties of the Two Rivers School District have really stepped up this year for a total team approach," Holliman said. "In particular, our math and English/literature teachers are trying to see that the same program is taught on all three campuses. They are using the same lessons, sharing programs and notes, to ensure the students are receiving the same instruction."

Holliman said with the new school will come a better management of the school district's facilities. "We can offer our students more if we can pull them all together," she said. "It's allabout the students, providing them the best facility and the best education we can."

River Valley Ozark, Pages 71, 76 on 10/30/2008

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