School brings new life to site

For­mer Lane Ho­tel in Rogers trans­formed into Haas Hall cam­pus

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DAVE PEROZEK

ROGERS — A build­ing deeply rooted in this city’s past is nearly ready to open as a place where young peo­ple pre­pare for their fu­tures.

The for­mer Lane Ho­tel at Sec­ond and Poplar streets down­town has been ren­o­vated for one of Haas Hall Academy’s new­est cam­puses. About 250 stu­dents in grades seven through 10 are ex­pected the first day of school Aug. 10.

“I’m thor­oughly im­pressed,” said John Bur­roughs, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Rogers His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum, af­ter tour­ing the build­ing Tues­day. “I can’t think of any­thing else that would give that build­ing such a long-term fu­ture in Rogers as Haas Hall tak­ing up res­i­dence, adapt­ing the build­ing, reusing it and giv­ing it new life.”

The five-story build­ing’s in­te­rior com­bines new class­rooms with ar­eas — most no­tably the sec­ond-floor lobby — re­stored to how they ap­peared when the ho­tel was built in 1928. The lobby’s brick floor is com­ple­mented by in­tri­cate wood­work carv­ings on the walls and ceil­ing.

The room ad­ja­cent to the lobby will be used as a cafe­te­ria. It has can­dle chan­de­lier light fix­tures.

“The light­ing was found in the base­ment and is orig­i­nal,” said Adrian Ris­ley, Haas Hall’s chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer. “They are retro­fit­ted with elec­tric­ity ob­vi­ously, but ap­par­ently those did hold can­dles back then.”

An ar­ti­fi­cial fire in the lobby’s fire­place will greet stu­dents as they walk in.

Class­rooms fill the top three floors. The first floor has spa­ces for art and mu­sic in­struc­tion, with large win­dows so passers-by may see what’s hap­pen­ing.

Martin Schopp­meyer, Haas Hall’s founder and su­per­in­ten­dent, called it the

nicest school he’s ever been in.

“I’ve never seen any­thing like this in my life,” Schopp­meyer said. “It feels good. It’s open, you have win­dows, you get ev­ery­thing. I re­mem­ber in the dairy barn days, we didn’t have more than two win­dows.”

Schopp­meyer opened his char­ter school with about a dozen stu­dents in a con­verted dairy barn in Farm­ing­ton in 2004. Haas Hall moved to Fayet­teville in 2009.

He opened a sec­ond cam­pus in Ben­tonville in 2015. Two cam­puses — the one in Rogers and one at The Jones Cen­ter in Spring­dale — will open next month. More than 1,000 stu­dents will be at­tend­ing the four cam­puses.

Haas Hall is an open en­roll­ment char­ter school, mean­ing it’s run by an en­tity other than a pub­lic school dis­trict. Open en­roll­ment char­ter schools are open and free to stu­dents from any dis­trict, and they re­ceive state money based on en­roll­ment.

The Rogers build­ing is listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places. KLS Leas­ing of Delaware, a com­pany af­fil­i­ated with the Wal­ton Fam­ily Foun­da­tion, bought the build­ing for $1.6 mil­lion in 2015 and is pay­ing for the ren­o­va­tion, ac­cord­ing to Luis Gon­za­lez, a spokesman for the foun­da­tion. Gon­za­lez didn’t pro­vide an es­ti­mate Fri­day about the cost of ren­o­va­tion.

Schopp­meyer said the school is leas­ing the for­mer ho­tel for $25,833 a month.

Larry Henry, a long­time jour­nal­ist who worked at the Ben­tonville cam­pus for its first two years, will serve as head­mas­ter in Rogers.

Henry said he’s ex­cited about the build­ing and some of the spe­cial fea­tures it will in­clude, such as a news­room, a tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion stu­dio, and a kitchen where chefs will em­pha­size fresh and healthy food.

“We will meet the stan­dards that Haas Hall has set pre­vi­ously at our other cam­puses,” he said.

T.J. LaPlant over­saw the ren­o­va­tion project for Cross­land Con­struc­tion. There were nu­mer­ous chal­lenges work­ing with the nearly 90-year-old build­ing, he said.

“For starters, get­ting ev­ery­thing to fit in the build­ing,” LaPlant said. “Back then they didn’t have all the heat­ing and air that we do now, all your duct work. Our largest chal­lenge to start off with was our ceil­ing height con­flicts.”

The orig­i­nal stair­case rail­ings were re­stored and glass rail­ings were in­stalled to meet build­ing code height re­quire­ments, LaPlant said.

The Jones Cen­ter cam­pus will be ready too, Head­mas­ter Jamie Ben­dure said.

“It looks fab­u­lous. They’re ty­ing up some loose ends,” Ben­dure said. “We are very grate­ful to The Jones Cen­ter for all of the work they’ve put in to make it com­pa­ra­ble to all of our other fa­cil­i­ties.”

Schopp­meyer said the lease at The Jones Cen­ter is $23,484 a month.

Like the Rogers cam­pus, the Spring­dale school will have about 250 stu­dents this year. En­roll­ment will grow over the next two years as a grade level is added each year.

Ben­dure is en­ter­ing her 23rd year in ed­u­ca­tion. She pre­vi­ously worked as a coun­selor in the Bro­ken Ar­row, Okla., pub­lic schools. Haas Hall’s rep­u­ta­tion at­tracted her to North­west Arkansas, she said.

Haas Hall fo­cuses on science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, arts, math­e­mat­ics and pre­par­ing stu­dents for col­lege. U.S. News & World Re­port has ranked it the No. 1 high school in Arkansas for six straight years.

Mar­lin Berry, su­per­in­ten­dent of the Rogers School Dis­trict, de­clined to ad­dress ques­tions re­lated to the open­ing of the char­ter school. He wrote in an email of­fi­cials are fo­cused on the up­com­ing school year.

“We are ex­cited about the start of a new school year and all the op­por­tu­ni­ties we of­fer our stu­dents,” he wrote. “Our ex­pe­ri­enced staff and com­pre­hen­sive cur­ricu­lum help stu­dents learn and ex­cel at the lo­cal, state and na­tional level.”

Berry cited New Tech­nol­ogy High School and the dis­trict’s new Hon­ors Academy as ex­am­ples of in­no­va­tive pro­grams meet­ing the “chang­ing needs” of stu­dents.

New Tech opened as a dis­trict-run char­ter school in 2013. The School Dis­trict spent about $1.7 mil­lion this sum­mer ren­o­vat­ing space once filled by Cross­roads, the dis­trict’s al­ter­na­tive school. New Tech ended the 2016-17 school year with about 630 stu­dents grades 9-12.

The Hon­ors Academy started last school year and pro­vides guid­ance to the high­est-achiev­ing high school stu­dents on col­lege op­tions and helps them get into the col­lege or uni­ver­sity that fits them best.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Martin Schopp­meyer, su­per­in­ten­dent of Haas Hall Academy, walks Tues­day down the south steps of the new Haas Hall Academy Rogers Cam­pus in Rogers. The cam­pus is in the for­mer Lane Ho­tel in the Rogers Com­mer­cial His­toric Dis­trict.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Guests and fac­ulty with Haas Hall Academy tour a main hall in Haas Hall’s new Rogers cam­pus in the for­mer Lane Ho­tel. The build­ing was ren­o­vated by the owner of the build­ing, a com­pany af­fil­i­ated with the Wal­ton Fam­ily Foun­da­tion.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Guests and per­son­nel with Haas Hall Academy tour a ground-level class­room at the Haas Hall cam­pus in Rogers. About 250 stu­dents in grades seven through 10 are ex­pected the first day of school Aug. 10.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Adrian Ris­ley, chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer with Haas Hall Academy, stands in the cafe­te­ria kitchen at the new Haas Hall cam­pus in the old Lane Ho­tel in Rogers.

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