New Jacksonville Elementary offers classroom walls, progress toward district’s desegregation obligations

by AryanArtnews
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On January 5, the Jacksonville / North Plaskey School District will open a fourth new school and a second primary school in three and a half years.

The new Jacksonville Elementary at 2400 Linda Lane will be home to approximately 700 kindergarten to fifth grade staff and 50 staff from the soon-to-be-closed Pinewood and Warren Dupree Elementary campuses. increase.

The new brown brick elementary school with red metal edging is next to Jacksonville Middle School, which first opened in August. If Linda Lane’s address sounds familiar, the adjacent elementary and junior high school is in what was once Jacksonville High School.

At the new Jacksonville Elementary School, four new schools are in operation in the school system, and two more are being built to reach that goal. Also, at the direction of a federal judge who presides over a long-term school separation proceeding, all eight original campuses with six new buildings.

All construction will take place in the district, which is just five years old. The 3,800 student district was separated from the adjacent Pulaski County Special School District and began operating independently in 2016.

The new district has inherited the separation obligations of the Pulaski County Special District in a federal proceeding, now 39 years old. These obligations in the two districts are to equalize the condition of the dilapidated school buildings common in populated communities of black students with the new buildings in the Pulaski County Special District, primarily in the neighborhood of whites. It is included.

“It’s beautiful,” said Daniel Gray, chairman of the Jacksonville / North Plaskey Board of Education, at the end of a recent board tour of a new primary school led by WER Architecture / Planners architect Matthew Swaim. WER is a company that designed schools in districts built or under construction by Baldwin & Shell Construction Co.

“I think our kids deserve it. It’s pretty cool to see the vision we wanted and worked on really together,” Gray said. “It is such a blessing to know what we came from and what these children have now.”

“The best facility possible”

Safety features and classroom walls (yes, walls) distinguish the new school from the previous school, which was designed as an “open space” school in the mid-20th century. That is, only bookshelves and other fixtures separated the learning space from the quiet noise. ..

“This transition means that students have access to the best possible facilities,” said April Turner, principal of Jacksonville Elementary School. “Because I lived in a wallless building in the classroom, I’m sure they deserve it. I know it improves their learning and values ​​and gives pride in their education.”

The safety features of Jacksonville Elementary School begin with an enclosed entrance that prevents visitors from entering our building without the permission of the school’s administration staff.

The school cafeteria also serves as a storm cellar with a large elevated stage at the south end, a kitchen surrounded by the north, and metal garage-style doors that pull down corridors and exterior windows when safety is ensured. It works. threat.

The multipurpose activity room has a soft floor and walls made of sound-absorbing material. The boldly colored outdoor playground in front of the school is secured to a rubberized, flexible surface.

The $ 18.5 million school building has approximately 40 classrooms, two self-contained special education classrooms and a talented and talented classroom. The library / media center, computer lab, music and art room, reading lab, and school suspension room are other features.

The full-scale elementary school gymnasium between elementary and junior high school students doubles as a windbreaker as needed by junior high school students.

The south side of the elementary school is a two-story building, with a secretariat suite on the first floor and a classroom corridor with windows for first and second graders.

On the second floor, there are 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classrooms, accessible by stairs and elevators at both ends and in the center.

The one-story corridor at the northern end of the school consists of eight kindergarten classrooms.

Between the north and south ends of the school, on either side of the main corridor, there are rooms for students with special needs, including a cafeteria and multipurpose room, music and art classrooms, and a room for speech and occupational therapy. .. Two self-contained classrooms. The two self-catering rooms are separated by a “cool down” room and a utility room with a toilet, shower and washing machine.

The main corridor and classroom corridor are a combination of gray cement bricks and horizontal wooden panels. Dark orange, lime green, bright yellow, teal blue and red accents accentuate the corridor skylights and corridor display boards. The classroom has a wall of color accents. Colors are used to indicate a “room” or space in the classroom.

The new primary school is the latest development in the district’s short history.

As part of the Pulaski County Special School District, residents of the Jacksonville area have sought to establish their own school district for decades to allow them to renew their old campuses.

Bobby G. Lester Elementary School, which opened in 2018, was the first new traditional public school in the Jacksonville area in 37 years. It replaced the elementary schools of Tolleson and Arnold Drive.

Then the new Jackson Bill High opened in August 2019 and the Jackson Bill Middle opened in August last year.

Controversy over Taylor

The district will then replace Bayumeto and Murrel Taylor Elementary School with a new campus.

However, district leaders have long argued with the state’s public school academic facilities and the Department of Transportation regarding Taylor’s replacement.

The state claims that the campus, which now has a 40-year history, is too new to be completely replaced at the expense of some of the state. The district claimed to have promised to replace the school with state support in a federal proceeding.

Earlier this year, the district filed a complaint in an ongoing separatist proceeding because the state was hesitant to participate in funding the new campus. However, district leaders have become more optimistic about state funding after an early review meeting with state authorities over the past few weeks on plans permitted by the Arkansas Code 6-20-2515. ..

Currently, the district must apply for state funding for the 2023-2025 state partnership program funding cycle by March 1.

The state department must fully evaluate all project applications and provide the school district with preliminary written decisions. Project funding will be determined by May 2023 for the first year project and by May 2024 for the second year project.

U.S. District Supreme Court Justice D. Price Marshall Jr., who is the presiding judge of the proceedings, said in May this year that the Jacksonville district was single and was released from court oversight of its separation efforts, except for facility issues. Arbitrated.

In September 2018, the judge ruled that if the Jacksonville district fulfilled its promises, it would be entitled to be released from federal court oversight of the school building by 2026.

“JNPSD’s plans are extraordinary,” Marshall wrote in his 2018 order. “Within about 12 years of its founding, the district plans to build a new high school, a new middle school and four new elementary schools. JNPSD’s integrity is demonstrated by the plan itself and the progress already achieved.”

Kortasia Evans set up a first grade classroom at the new Jacksonville Elementary School on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. Students will enter the new building in January. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Stephens Offord)

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