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School buildings rise around Texarkana

by The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | January 3, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

TEXARKANA -- Three schools began, continued or finished construction in and around the Texarkana hub in 2020.

Construction of Texarkana Middle School north of Interstate 30 is in full swing. Texarkana School District Superintendent Becky Kesler said it should be complete by Jan. 25 and that students should be moving in as of February. A ribbon-cutting is planned for March.

"It has really come along; it looks wonderful," Kesler said at a School Board meeting in December. "That has been a highlight of this year for us, working on that middle school."

The $26 million project does not increase taxes. Instead, bonds were restructured and $6 million in partnership money will be used for the new building. The district plans to furnish the new school using magnet school funds.

It will be the first new school the Arkansas district has constructed in 37 years.

It has grade-specific wings for sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Each wing contains 12 classrooms. A fine arts wing is also included.

College Hill Elementary, which is 63 years old, will be phased out of use as a school when the new building opens.

The Genoa Central School District in southeast Texarkana started construction on a new junior high school in October. It is scheduled to open in August 2022. The school will be located directly south of the Genoa High School football field.

Superintendent Garry Jameson said the district is in the beginning stages of construction. A construction schedule has not be finalized yet, but the target date for finishing is May 2022.

The McDougal Group is handling construction. Mark Bailey, with Bailey Architecture PLLC, designed the building.

Bailey said the 65,830-square-foot building will feature a full-size gymnasium, 12 general education classrooms, two science labs, two computer labs, a special education classroom, a cafetorium, a media center, a health center and a fully equipped kitchen.

The gym will seat 1,400 people and have dressing rooms. The cafetorium is a hybrid between a cafeteria and a performing arts center. There will also be administrative offices.

The project is estimated to cost $12.6 million. It's being funded by the state of Arkansas and the district through a partnership program.

On the Texarkana, Texas, side, the Pleasant Grove Independent School District welcomed students and staff members to Margaret Fischer Davis Elementary School for the first time on Nov. 9 after breaking ground on the school building more than a year and a half ago. Located at 2800 Galleria Oaks, it contains 33 classrooms, several multipurpose learning spaces, a media center, a gymnasium and a cafeteria. It also has four grade-level collaboration learning areas equipped with makerspace instructional resources, flexible seating and extensive technology.

At the groundbreaking, Superintendent Chad Pirtle said the new building will allow the district to start the science, technology, engineering, arts and math initiatives for younger ages.

"The technology that we're bringing in is world-class technology," he said.

Initially expected to be completed in July, the construction of the building encountered a few setbacks because of covid-19 and weather.

The building is funded through a $19.9 million bond that voters approved in 2018 for the school and for updated security and technology districtwide.

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