White Hall School Board hears building project update

White Hall School Board members heard from an architect Thursday about the second phase of a building addition and renovation project with an estimated price tag of $18.5 million.

White Hall School District Superintendent Larry Smith said that the special called meeting was to allow board members to gain more information. Board members did not vote and will receive more information at a meeting scheduled for September.

“When I came here seven years ago, we had some facilities issues that we needed to address,” Smith said.

The first phase of the building project began in 2009 with the addition of 17 classrooms at White Hall High School, the construction of a softball field, the upgrade of an outdoor track and the installation of turf on a football field.

The second phase calls for a 1200-seat auditorium at a cost of about $8.5 million, a field house at a cost of $7.6 million, wheelchair-accessible ramps to an existing gymnasium complex at a projected cost of $664,000 and further renovations at a projected cost of $2 million.

“We want to establish time lines. We want to move the band and choir programs out of the main high school buildings to reconfigure those spaces,” Smith said. “Right now we send our ROTC students to the Pine Bluff Arsenal. We transport them back and forth every day on buses. We do not want to do it.

“This is starting to look at the second phase. We have had administrators and teachers come in to look at the program needs of the high school,” Smith said. “In what areas are we OK? In what areas are we deficient?”

The renovations will be to an existing first and second floor and include the addition of 4110 square feet on the second floor. The proposed auditorium would be 31,928 square feet. The proposed field house would be 48,164 square feet.

Architect H.F. Bunny Brown of the Little Rock-based firm Jackson Brown Palculict Architects presented blueprints as part of a packet with detailed information for each of the proposed projects. Two years ago, he said he had estimated a $19.1 million cost but has since dropped it to $18.5 million.

“We have a handicapped-accessibility issue with the gym that needs to be addressed,” Brown said.

Brown stressed that the figures are estimates. He said that one priority is whether to package the two additions and renovations in one bid package versus breaking them into individual parts.

“I think the auditorium and field house are large enough to stand on their own,” Brown said. “With school theaters, we design for multiple purposes. … We feel this is comparable to your wants and needs.”