ROGERS -- Fencing projects at two elementary schools are done, and several more are scheduled for completion this spring.
Charles Lee, assistant superintendent for general administration, discussed the fencing and other projects during a facilities report to the School Board at its meeting last week.
The Rogers School District’s largest facility project of all is its 16th elementary school, being built at West Garrett and South Bellview roads. The yet-to-be-named school will open in August 2019. The total cost of building, furnishing and equipping the building is expected to be no more than $23.3 million.
Source: Staff Report
Bonnie Grimes and Old Wire elementary schools recently had fencing installed around their playgrounds. Westside, Mathias and Reagan elementaries were scheduled to be done this month. Grace Hill, Lowell, Bellview, Darr, Tucker and Jones elementaries are scheduled for next month, according to Lee.
Eastside, Tillery, Garfield and Northside elementary schools already have adequate fencing, Lee said.
"Hopefully by the end of April, May at the latest, we'll have security fencing on all of our playgrounds," he told the board.
The projects come one year after a 6-year-old boy at Fayetteville's Vandergriff Elementary School went missing during recess. The boy was found unresponsive in a swimming pool of a nearby home. He died the next day.
The incident prompted Fayetteville to add security fencing at Vandergriff and other campuses. Some other local school districts also evaluated and addressed their fencing situations.
Kristen Cobbs, board president, said the extra fencing is worth the cost.
"Just having the added barrier of the fence is really important to a lot of schools," Cobbs said. "It's not foolproof. Nothing like that is if someone is bound and determined. But I think it adds a good physical barrier for security on the campuses."
Arkansas doesn't require fencing around school boundaries or playgrounds unless the school has a prekindergarten program, said Kimberly Friedman, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.
"School Fencing: Benefits and Disadvantages," a 2013 study by the Washington-based firm Hanover Research, mainly looked at the role of fencing as a guard against outside threats, but also found playground fencing promotes student safety and helps to define separate spaces for different age groups.
"School staff can easily monitor playing children and children cannot inadvertently leave the playground," the report states.
In other facilities news, a renovation project is proceeding on the building at 2100 W. Perry Road, a former church the district bought last year for $1,475,000. The facility will house the district's special services division and host professional development training.
The special services department will move in during the first half of June, Lee said. It is moving from 212 S. Third St., a building the board agreed to sell last week for $360,000 to A Wise Investment Co. The contract was signed by Grant Wise, who did not return a phone message or an email messages left for him this week.
The district decided to sell the downtown building after much consideration and study about a future use, according to a description of the transaction included with online board documents. Closing is scheduled for July 15, allowing adequate time for the Perry Road facility to be finished.
The Third Street property formerly served as the district's administration building. Administrative offices moved to their present location at 500 W. Walnut St. in 2006. That's also when the special services department moved into the Third Street building.
The district also is embarking on an effort to install state-of-the-art security cameras at all of its campuses.
The district is installing cameras at Reagan Elementary. New Technology High School is next, to be followed by Rogers High School and Heritage High School. The goal is to get all school security cameras upgraded over the next four years, which will cost about $3 million, Lee said.
"These projects take anywhere from six to eight weeks to complete from the time we walk through to actually getting them installed," Lee said.
Meanwhile, officials are considering ways to enhance and spruce up some of the district's older buildings. Garfield, Lowell, Northside, Tillery and Westside elementary schools are all more than 50 years old.
One of the bigger projects lined up for this summer is construction of a hallway that will connect the two buildings at Lowell Elementary. Enclosing the walkway between the buildings will allow free travel between them. Exactly what it will cost has not been determined. The project is expected to begin June 4 and be completed by Aug. 1, Lee said.
Other improvements have been discussed not only for Lowell, but Northside and Westside as well. Architects have walked through those buildings and given administrators a list of possible improvements to those buildings.
"Our next step will be to hire a company and bring to the board a scope of work that might be possible with the maintenance and building fund dollars that we have," said Superintendent Marlin Berry in an email.
Such work is possible because of the 3.5-mill tax increase voters approved for the district last year, Cobbs said. While most of that increase is meant for construction of two new elementary schools, some of it is going toward security cameras, security fencing, exterior lighting and improvements for older schools.
"I'm really excited to see what the architects bring forward for updated facades and improvements in those buildings," Cobbs said. "I know the staff and kids inside those buildings have a lot of school pride, and to just add to that would be a great thing to do. It just feels good to have something new."
NW News on 03/22/2018