Newport Moving Towards New Elementary

NEWPORT, AR--Out with the old in with the new. The Newport School District is moving forward with a plan to replace Castleberry Elementary with a new 13 million dollar school.

Before they can move forward with those plans, they need voters to approve a seven mill increase.

For life long Newport resident Tina Van Winkle, Castleberry Elementary is part of her family's history, her step father went to school there. She recalls that when she attended the school, it needed a facelift and now, more than a decade later, her son is a student there.

"I remember it being fun, it was old, and it is time for a new one. It will be missed because it's been here for a while, but I think it is time for a new start," said Van Winkle.

In fact Castleberry has been around for almost a half a century. It was built in 1960 and while the parents rave about the academics, they do complain about the classrooms being too small and the students are in need of a larger facility.

"It has a lot of things that are not conducive for a safe warm dry environment for our kids," said Newport Superintendent Ronny Brown.

Brown points out the school isn't built like a typical school and it's time for it to be replaced. That's why the district is moving forward with a plan to build a new pre-k through 5th grade school off of U.S. Highway 67.

"I think if they have what they need, then they are going to learn better," said Van Winkle.

The project is slated to cost 13 million dollars. The state education department will pick up around a third of that, but the district must come up with the remaining nine million dollars.

To cover the tab, the district will ask patrons to approve a millage increase of seven mills in September. According to Brown it's money well spent.

"There will be many other values that these people will get other than having their kids going to a nice school. It attracts industry, it has a lot of property value increase because of the school," said Brown.

He is confident voters will see the benefit a new school provides and feel compelled to pass the millage.

"I think it will because a lot of people are wanting a new school," said Van Winkle.

According to Brown if the millage is passed the new school could be ready to go by the start of the 2009-2010 school year.