The Pine Bluff School District will need to campaign for an increase in one or both of its millage rates to generate enough funds toward a high school construction project that could lose state funding if not finalized by next January.
Ray Beardsley, a financial adviser for the district, made that recommendation publicly to the district's board during a regular monthly meeting Monday. The district in July 2021 was approved for a $24 million high school project that would cover 116,489 square feet, with the state covering 53% of the cost, or $12,817,259 ($110.03 per square foot), and the district to cover the rest.
Since then, construction costs have escalated to about $300 to $350 per square foot, while the PBSD has lost $2,594,550 in state funding due to a loss of 350 students from last school year, Beardsley said.
School administrators across Arkansas are petitioning the state Legislature to increase their funding in cost-share agreements toward facility upgrades.
If the cost of construction is $300 per square foot, the total cost would be $34,946,700, leaving the PBSD to cover $22,129,441 plus a $500,000 equipping cost. At $350 per square foot, the cost would rise to $40,771,150, leaving the PBSD to fork over $27,953,891 plus the equipping cost.
Beardsley informed the board that the PBSD and state Education Secretary Jacob Oliva must decide by May 10 and have signed all necessary documents by then to put a millage question on the Aug. 8 ballot. For the question to be placed on the Nov. 14 ballot, the parties must decide by Aug. 25 and have the documents signed, but Beardsley cautioned that might push against the deadline to finalize the project.
Oliva makes all final approvals of board actions, since the PBSD is operating under a limited-authority board.
The district is funded by two millage rates due to the July 2021 annexation of the Dollarway School District. Property owners in the former Dollarway district pay taxes at a rate of 40.8 mills, and those in the former PBSD zone pay taxes at a rate of 41.7 mills.
Shawn Carroll of East Harding Construction informed the board the project is based on space replacement of buildings at Pine Bluff High that are at least 50 years old. Among the current buildings scheduled for demolition, the Trice, Arts, Patterson, McGeorge and ROTC buildings would total 189,854 square feet.
Curry promotes welding program
Former Watson Chapel School District Superintendent Andrew Curry, now director of governmental affairs with transformer manufacturer Central Moloney Inc., pitched a skills trade and manufacturing program that promotes welding education in the district. Curry was superintendent when Central Moloney forged a partnership with the WCSD to start the program for this school year, and 11 of the 19 students in that program will graduate this year with the promise of a job at Central Moloney, Curry said.
Assistant Superintendent Phillip Carlock acknowledged the PBSD's top readers, or those who read the most books for the second grading quarter:
From Broadmoor Elementary: Brayshawn Leach (grades K-1), De'Adjah Williamson (2-3) and Daylan Wiley (4-6); from Southwood Elementary: Khari Mickens (K-1), Raivyn Williams (2-3), Jakarion Franklin (4-6); from Thirty-Fourth Avenue Elementary: Jace Moore (K-1), Damien Crump (2-3), Malajah Gatewood (4-6); from Jack Robey Junior High: Haley Price; from Robert F. Morehead Middle School: Kaylen Pittmon; and from Pine Bluff High: Remeia Smothers.
Beating the Odds
Morehead, Dollarway High, Pine Bluff High and Jack Robey received honors from the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, as schools that are "Beating the Odds" because students demonstrated high growth on the ACT Aspire, even though the schools serve a high percentage of students who participate in free and reduced lunch.
The district hired Rhonda Johnson as a paraprofessional at Pine Bluff High and rehired Pamela Ervin as administrative assistant to the superintendent.
Resignation letters were accepted from security officer Ontario Allen, James Matthews Elementary secretary Erica Kaiser, Dollarway High social worker Ashley Steward and Matthews health aide Jaleesa Woods.
Addenda were approved for Matthews assistant principal Tamika Freeman-Taylor, Matthews library media specialist Lavoris Martin and Jack Robey assistant principal Tamika Wright. Contracts were renewed for assistant superintendents Kelvin Gragg and Carlock, and paraprofessional Takelia Liddell was transferred from Jack Robey to Matthews.