Region 8 school looking for millage increase, again - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Region 8 school looking for millage increase, again

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – It has only been 4 months since the millage vote failed to pass for Valley View. Now there is another vote scheduled for March 8th. I visited with Superintendent Dr. Radius Baker to hear what the plans and needs were.

"It's just an overcrowding issue." Baker says, "We do not have the space available for the students to go into the classrooms."

After voters turned down a millage hike last year, the district has decided to try again to raise the money to build a new high school. In most school years Valley View adds many new students to the population. But this growth does not come without growing pains. A prime problem area is the Junior High building. It was originally built to be the Intermediate school.

Baker, "We don't have the adequate science labs, we don't have the adequate computer labs for those students and we're mandated by state to have those." The two science rooms I looked in to just had desks like any other classroom. No experiment tables, no lab equipment at all.

Junior High Principal Barry Jones walked around the school with me. I noticed that in a couple of hallways, backpacks were stacked against the walls. Why?

"No Lockers." Jones said. "This building wasn't even made for lockers, but they carry their notebooks and personal items in their backpacks all day long. And during lunchtime we have to set them in the hallways because there is no room in the cafeteria."

Fortunately students have 2 sets of books, one for school and one for home so at least they are spared that weight. Many students even have to carry a gym bag as well since there are no lockers in the gym which was designed and outfitted for elementary students. The cafeteria is so crowded they can only feed one grade at a time.

Some classes at both the High School and Junior High must meet in portable buildings. The current ones are having age and structural issues as well as costing the school rent. Without the millage, this could be the future Baker says.

Baker, "If the millage does not pass and we can not build a high school then we will have to purchase or lease at least 5 portable buildings next year and probably 5 the following year."

That would solve the classroom space but with these older buildings and external classrooms comes another issue...Security. With so many outside classrooms and so many doors it's almost impossible to lock it down.

Jones, "We have to worry about locking our building down so there's only a short number of access points for people to get into the building from the outside. It's hard to do that when students are traveling back and forth between the buildings."

Dr. Baker said a pamphlet will be sent to parents shortly to explain the millage proposal in detail. It's all about the students he says.

Baker, "We are doing everything we can to make sure that the students get what they deserve and that's an excellent education."

Some people are questioning the need to have a vote so soon on the heels of the last failed vote. Dr. Baker says if they want to get the new high school built they need to strike why the iron is hot.

Baker, "We have been guaranteed money from the Department of Education right now. If we do not do it in March and have to wait till the following year then we will not be guaranteed that money we will have to apply again."

Baker says if the district has to wait and apply again the money granted could be less and that would cost taxpayers more to eventually build the new high school.

The vote is scheduled for March 8th.

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