Greene County Tech to Get Millions

PARAGOULD, AR -- Many schools across Region 8 learned this week that they'll be receiving state money for improvements. Greene County Tech in Paragould was on the list and actually was awarded the largest percentage of school building funding in the state, out of all districts.

The chance to get millions of dollars handed to their district to build a new high school at Greene County Tech is now on their plate.

"If the patrons of our community are as convinced as we are that this is a great deal for schools, the thought that someone will come in and pay over half the cost is an awesome opportunity," says GCT Superintendent Sheila Ford.

In 2005, money was appropriated by the Arkansas Legislature to improve school buildings across the state. Just recently, the legislative session made more dollars available for schools from the state surplus. Last Fall, it started with an application process and gave districts state guidelines that their school buildings should follow. For a new high school at G.C.T, that rings up to $27 million.

"Using those specifications, the district applied for a school that would house 1000 students, since that is our projected enrollment for the next 10 years," says Ford.

The largest and oldest building on the high school campus was built in 1948. The building they call 'Old Main' is flooded when it rains and has a list of major problems. And the newest building, it's been there since 1966. It's fair to say their high school is not up with the times.

"Each evaluation that was submitted was ranked and scored based on needs within the school district. The Greene County Tech district is excited about the possibility of building a new high school for our students," says Ford.

Each school district that will receive funds from the state will get a different percentage paid. For G.C.T., the state says it will fund 14.8 million dollars or 53 percent of the project for a new high school, the district is left to cover the other 47 percent. From here, Superintendent Ford says it's up to the school and the patrons to decide if and how they want to fund the other 12 million dollars for the project. Something she says they are unsure of at this time.

"I'm not sure that that's the top priority of the community, however I'm not sure that it's not a top priority for the community," adds Ford.

Regardless, they say they're just glad to be faced with the decision.

If the district's patrons decide not to build a new high school, they will have to return the 14 million dollars to the state by July of 2008.