Groundbreaking set June 1st for new GCT high school

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Officials with the Greene County Tech School District Tuesday said construction of the new high school would break ground June 1, 2009. The project, costing $38-million, is one year behind schedule. The district said it hopes to have the buildings complete by fall 2011.

"There are all these procedures that you have to go through and in different stages of the design process. First the planning stage. That took a lot longer that we thought. I think we were in planning stage for a little over a year," said Superintendent Rita Adams.

Adams said problems with the planning process delayed the groundbreaking of the new high school, which is to be built on a 134,000 square foot plot of land on Highway 49 near the Carriage Hills subdivision. The high school complex will have a football stadium, performing arts center that holds 1,000 people and a 2,400 seat basketball arena. Adams said 21st century classrooms will also be constructed to keep up with technological advancements.

"We're going to ensure that we start with up to date technology because you know how that is. Technology can get out of date in a hurry as fast as we move with all the advances we have in technology," said Adams. "We have planned for extra space for growth for us to grow with those."

The designer of the high school complex is Stuck Associates Architects. Baldwin & Shell Construction Company is doing construction.

"Hopefully we will break ground first part of June, and when I say break ground, you won't see anything going up but you'll see a lot of dozers, excavators, track hoes, a lot of things that are moving dirt. We're going to have to fill the lot. We're going to have to redirect a small creek. They're going to have to do some things of that nature to get started," said Keith Davis, Director of the Facilities and Transportation Department.

According to Adams, the project will cost $38.4 million. It'll be paid with monies raised from a 4.9 mil increase passed by voters in 2007.

"I'd like to see it started. I understand what they're doing and I don't want them to start before it's time, before they have everything worked out, but I'd hate to see it put off," said Hardy Thompson.

Thompson has twin daughters in 11th grade at GCT. They would have been among the first to graduate from the new high school.

"We're at all the school events and we see the board members quite a bit, and I'm sure they're getting asked a lot of questions about the new school and everybody is anxious," said Thompson. "It's a big talk at the ballgames, saying, I wish I had our new school built because we wouldn't have the seating problems we have right now because the basketball teams are pretty successful. It's just hard to find a seat in there right now."

In early 2008, the school district had contracted 6 buildings to be destroyed at the construction site. Only 2 buildings remain, including the old Greene County High cafeteria.

"If everything comes in as budget, football will be implemented in with the original plans. Baseball, softball, soccer may come at a later date," said Davis.

Adams said the Greene County Tech School District is growing. The Delaplaine School District consolidated nearly 2 years ago. Most of those students live in a rural community and have since transferred to other schools; however, many students remain at GCT.

"Many of those children live closer to the Walnut Ridge School District, Pocahontas or wherever, and so we lost a lot of those students after we consolidated with them, but as a rule, this particular area here is growing," said Adams.

"Everybody now is wanting to see something done, and we have a process to go through. Not only through architects and our general contractor, construction managers, but also we have to follow what the Facilities Department tells us to do," said Davis.

Adams said the school will start taking bids starting the 2nd week of April through mid-May. Groundbreaking is expected to start June 1.

"They're probably a little disappointed but they love the school they're at now and they understand things take time," Thompson said about his girls not graduating in the new school.

"In the very beginning, I think that we would be able to enter school in the fall of 2010, and now we're going to be entering school in fall of 2011," said Adams.

Davis said the fact the project has been delayed one year is actually a good things for taxpayers.

"As it's backed up and pushed back, economically now that we look at it, we feel that it's helped us because there are so many trades out there that will be involved in building this school that are needing work," said Davis. "The more bids, the better off the competitiveness is so hopefully the bids will come in at a lower price that what we normally anticipated and will put us practically on budget and will allow us to upgrade, not upgrade, but put more into the facility, and get more bang for our buck."

Thompson said one reason he's ready to see the new high school constructed is the fact the school district is growing in population.

"I would say that the Tech District is growing at a pretty good rate even with a down economy," said Thompson. "I'd rather see them go ahead and start now. Reason being, I understand what she's saying that contractors are charging less with materials down and all that but typically property taxes, which is the revenue stream that funds the school, doesn't go down even in a down economy because it's not a sales tax based tax."

"It's a 10 through 12 building. Everything that encompasses every program from Math, English, Science, to, of your History to special needs classes to Business, Art, all of your non-academic, baseball, football, theatre, band, choir, everything will, Agri, everything will be located out here under one roof," said Davis.