School To Keep Ar­vest Build­ing

BOARD SAYS BEST FI­NAN­CIAL MOVE

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kut­ter

PRAIRIE GROVE — Af­ter look­ing at sev­eral op­tions on what to do with the for­mer Ar­vest Bank build­ing in down­town Prairie Grove, the School Board agreed the best path for­ward fi­nan­cially for the school district will be to keep the build­ing and use it for ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fices and as space for tech­nol­ogy and other school staff.

The board, meet­ing in a work session last week, did not take a for­mal vote but came to a ver­bal con­sen­sus as in­terim Su­per­in­ten­dent Reba Holmes pre­sented three op­tions on what to do with the build­ing and how each op­tion would af­fect the school district fi­nan­cially.

Holmes said the for­mer Ar­vest build­ing on Buchanan Street has 12,000 square feet on the first level and an­other 5,000 square feet on the sec­ond level.

This build­ing would be large enough to house the four ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tions, four ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tants, read­ing spe­cial­ist, English as a Sec­ond Lan­guage di­rec­tor, di­rec­tor of food ser­vices, spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary, a pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment room, board room and space for the district’s back­pack pro­gram.

The tech­nol­ogy de­part­ment would be housed in an area of the build­ing that would pro­vide three of­fices, workspace and stor­age.

The build­ing also has room for growth, kitchen fa­cil­i­ties and space up­stairs that could be used for tech­nol­ogy stor­age and workspace.

By mov­ing these of­fices and staff to the for­mer bank, the district will be able to move two pre-kinder­garten classes to the present ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, free­ing up space

the el­e­men­tary school, Holmes said. The move also would al­low the high school to open up an­other ca­reer class in the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing.

The first two op­tions on the ta­ble both pro­posed sell­ing the build­ing. How­ever, Holmes said she learned af­ter mul­ti­ple con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple on the state level that the school would have to sell the build­ing by Feb. 1 or it then could be­come avail­able for a char­ter school to pur­chase and use.

Along with sell­ing the build­ing, the school still would have to con­struct ei­ther a new build­ing for the tech­nol­ogy de­part­ment or a new build­ing to house both ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fices and the tech­nol­ogy de­part­ment. Holmes es­ti­mated costs for these two build­ings could range from $300,000 to $600,000 and there would be other ques­tions to con­sider, such as lo­ca­tion, cost of prepa­ra­tion work and when the build­ings could be com­pleted.

The school would not re­ceive any state fund­ing for ei­ther of those build­ings.

Prairie Grove School District has ap­plied for state part­ner­ship money to help build a new sev­enth- and eighth-grade school and will find out about its re­quest in May 2019.

As part of this plan, the district will have to tear down sev­eral build­ings when the new mid­dle school is com­pleted. These dis­placed peo­ple will need a place to go and the Ar­vest bank build­ing would take care of that is­sue, Holmes said.

Af­ter pre­sent­ing her op­tions, board mem­ber Casie Ru­land quickly re­sponded, “Op­tion 3.”

The board’s con­sen­sus to keep the Ar­vest bank is a turn­around from a vote in Au­gust to find a real es­tate firm to try to sell the build­ing. The school bought the build­ing from Ar­vest in April for $600,000 but in Au­gust, board mem­bers de­cided they did not like the idea of mov­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fices off the school cam­pus and had heard from some peo­ple in the com­mu­nity who did not like the idea ei­ther.

Board mem­ber Jerry Coyle ad­mit­ted he was the one to bring up sell­ing the build­ing in Au­gust and he based that on what he was hear­ing from the com­mu­nity.

He agreed, though, the district needs to use the bank build­ing and should go ahead and make the move.

He said he did not think the build­ing would sell quickly, adding he had ap­proached the city and peo­ple in the busi­ness world to see if they would be in­ter­ested. No one was in­ter­ested in buy­ing the build­ing, Coyle said.

Holmes said as su­per­in­ten­dent she prefers to stay on cam­pus but pointed out that when­ever she vis­its the dif­fer­ent school cam­puses, she still gets in her car to drive to the build­ings. She would con­tinue to do that if the of­fices move down­town, she said.

“This is al­ready bought,” Coyle said. “It’s a very nice build­ing.”

He said he didn’t like for the school board “to waf­fle” on de­ci­sions but said, “As a build­ing, fi­nan­cially, we can’t do any bet­ter.”

The school’s best choice is to use the bank build­ing and from a town per­spec­tive, it will make the ad­min­is­tra­tion more ap­proach­able be­ing lo­cated in the down­town area, Coyle said.

Ru­land ex­pressed her ap­pre­ci­a­tion to Holmes for her re­search and time in putting to­gether the op­tions for the board.

“I’m glad we took the time to look at this,” Ru­land said.

Holmes said she did not think there would be many costs to get the bank build­ing ready for ad­min­is­tra­tion and other of­fices.

The tech­nol­ogy de­part­ment has al­ready spent $6,000 to pre­pare for the move. The school has the equip­ment needed for the per­son­nel and as part of the pur­chase, Ar­vest left fur­ni­ture, such as desks, chairs and other items.

One ex­pense would be ren­o­vat­ing the cur­rent bank teller coun­ters to cre­ate space for school board meet­ings.

Af­ter the meet­ing, Holmes said the work session gave the board the op­por­tu­nity “to step back to truly look at ev­ery­thing.”

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