A brand-new three-story Jacksonville High School will open next month for more than 1,000 high school students, and there is not a metal locker in sight.
Don't need them, Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District Superintendent Bryan Duffie said Friday about the old personal storage units -- once synonymous with high school -- for holding books, folders, lunch and maybe a band instrument or a gym bag.
"They aren't going to have big heavy textbooks to carry around," Duffie said about the ninth-through-12th-graders who will be attending the $74 million campus -- not including furnishings -- in the heart of Jacksonville.
"You have your Chromebooks [laptop computers], and we'll have classroom sets of textbooks. So, at least for here, there won't be the heavy backpacks like there used to be," he said.
The new red-brick and glass school faces Main Street to the north and School Street to the south on a site that once was home to side-by-side schools, maybe best known as Jacksonville North and Jacksonville South, that served a variety of middle school and junior high purposes.
The new campus replaces the 50-year-old high school on Linda Lane that will be demolished over the next few months to make way for a new middle school and an elementary school to open in August 2021.
The construction is all part of the new district's effort to replace each of its campuses within a very few years and be released from federal court oversight of its operations, including the condition of its facilities. The district opened the new Bobby G. Lester Elementary Sachool last August, which replaced Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementaries.
The Jacksonville/North Pulaski district, carved out of the Pulaski County Special School District, began independent operations in July 2016.
Residents of the Jacksonville area sought to form a new district in large part as a way to update old campuses. As a condition for that detachment, the Jacksonville district committed to meeting the same federal court-approved school desegregation requirements as the Pulaski County Special district.
That included making older schools that serve a relatively high percentage of black students comparable with more recently built schools in predominantly white sections of the Pulaski County Special district.
Duffie said the new high school will be seen as the district's flagship campus and is symbolic.
"This is 30 years of work that the community has wanted to achieve, to have its own school district and then to have new facilities and better facilities for students to achieve and learn," he said.
The two-story entry to the school has a glass vestibule between the outer doors and main interior of the building. Administrative offices decorated in shades of red, black, gray and white are to the immediate right.
Farther to the west is an expansive student dining area with its many serving lines and mix of different size and different heights of tables and chairs. Large screens on the walls offer the possibility of viewing news and sports channels, Duffie said.
Large walls of windows and doors in the dining area provide lots of natural light and easy student access to a large outdoor commons area with wide stair-seating.
The western section of the building -- closest to U.S. 67/167 -- is the kitchen and 75-seat dining space for the student-run Simply Delicious restaurant for the public.
For the first time this school year, two members of the Pulaski Technical College faculty will teach culinary arts-related courses at the school so that students can earn training certifications.
The absence of lockers in the L-shaped Jacksonville High allows for wide hallways of burnished concrete block walls mixed with windows looking into classrooms, classroom doorways accented in red, and intermittently placed stretches of wood countertops.
The school's first-floor media center, furnished with different shaped tables and boldly colored, movable soft furniture, includes study and meeting carrels around its perimeter. The media center's south wall of windows looks out to the courtyard that is in the joint of the L-shaped building.
The suite of counselors offices, banks of computers and a wider space known as the University Center -- so that students and families can meet with college recruiters -- also are on the first floor.
Larry Townsend, a longtime volunteer in the Jacksonville schools, was in the counselor suite Friday, helping to unpack boxes moved from the old high school.
"I'm the oldest parent in the district," the white-haired Townsend said. "I've had 40 international exchange students."
Townsend said he likes the new building for several reasons.
"It's close to home -- only 1 mile down the road. And I like the openness with all the windows. The old school didn't have any windows in the classrooms."
Additionally, the new school has enclosed hallways unlike the old school in which the hallways weren't closed at their ends to the outdoors. "The temperature will be consistent," Townsend said.
Career education will include the school's certified nursing assistant program, the Air Force Junior Officer Reserve Training program and the Jobs for Arkansas Graduates career internship program.
Two art classrooms are on the first floor as is the "maker space" room that has the potential to be loaded with 3-D printers and other technology to accommodate special projects that students and their teachers undertake.
The new school features computer laboratories for business education, computer science and cybersecurity instruction.
Sam Grubb will teach computer science with a security emphasis and eventually an advanced security course. There are 20 Internet-connected computers in his computer-science classroom and 20 in the cyber lab. The cyber-lab devices aren't connected to the Internet.
"We have locked or cut the access so that when they are using security tools they don't accidentally unleash those tools somewhere else."
Grubb said the students will work in "a closed network. They are going to be doing simulated attacks. I'm going to be attacking them so they will know what it looks like when an incident actually happens."
"This is leading edge -- it's very advanced, not just for the state but for the nation in terms of secondary education," Grubb also said. "We're at the forefront."
The new school's second floor is home to most of the traditional classrooms -- all of which are about 850 square feet, at least 200 square feet larger than the rooms in the old school. The third floor will house the science labs with their kidney-bean shaped tables. Each of the four labs is shared by two classrooms.
Still being completed are the auditorium, music and band rooms, as well as the gymnasium, indoor practice field and football stadium and track -- home turf for the Jacksonville Titans. The season's first home game will be played on the old high school field, but the new stadium should be ready for the second home game at the end of September, Duffie said.
The district is planning to have an open house and/or dedication ceremony for the new building in the coming weeks, Duffie said.
Work continues in a courtyard outside the new Jacksonville High School. The old Jacksonville High School is currently being torn down, and an alumnus wants to find a mural he painted inside before the entire building is gone.
Metro on 07/28/2019