Area school districts receive news on project funding


The Watson Chapel School District learned this week that two of three construction projects written into its facilities master plan were approved for funding by the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation at a Wednesday meeting in Little Rock.

The meeting was held to determine the fates of proposed facilities upgrades in public school districts throughout the state for the 2013-2015 period.

The state uses a sliding scale to determine how much of a project it will pay for versus how much the individual school district will be required to contribute.

Watson Chapel superintendent Danny Hazelwood said that the district is pleased with getting the green light for renovations of the heating and cooling system at Coleman Elementary School with state funding of $2,239,249; and the expansion of the Watson Chapel High School technology center with state funding of $369,499.

A project to construct a combination physical education/multipurpose building on the campus of Watson Chapel High School was approved for the two-year period but the state funding of $1,472,622 was not granted.

“We’re excited about being eligible for the two projects,” Hazelwood said. “We’re going to need to evaluate the timeline. Getting the air conditioners at Coleman upgraded is a must do. The expansion at the high school is not as high a priority but the main thing is that we got them approved. We were actually surprised that they approved the media center expansion given that there is talk that the facilities money is running out.”

Hazelwood said the Academic Facilities Partnership Program was set up several years ago when the state enjoyed a significant budget surplus.

“We’re still in the shock stage of being funded but next we’re going to have to go find our share of the funding,” Hazelwood said. “None of this has any bearing on our millage campaign for the new K-1 building at Edgewood Elementary. The millage is a big deal. People don’t like new taxes but this is something that is absolutely needed.”

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Pine Bluff

The Pine Bluff School District had both of its two requested projects approved for funding.

Southeast Middle School was approved for $847,548 in funding for the replacement of its heating and cooling system; and Oak Park Elementary School was approved for $529,717 in funding for the replacement of its heating and cooling system.

Pine Bluff superintendent Linda Watson was happy to see the state approval.

“We are very happy about it,” Watson said. “Any assistance we can get from the state on facilities upgrades is welcome. Both projects are planned for the summer of 2014. Our facilities director Seth Wynn will spend the next year getting bids from contractors and lining everything out.”

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Dollarway

The Dollarway School District was granted approval of $615,654 in state funding for renovations of the Dollarway High School gymnasium.

District superintendent Frank Anthony said that he had not yet had time to look into what the approval would mean for the district.

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White Hall

The White Hall School District had no project requests to review.

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Approved project guidelines

Under the Partnership Program a Project Agreement must be executed by the school district and the state within 60 days of the approval and funding; and all projects must be under construction, as evidenced by a signed construction contract, within 18 months from the project approval and funding. The projects must be completed within four years of project approval and funding.