County Seeing School Growth Of $71 Million

by Jamie Walden  on Monday, Aug. 18, 2008 12:00 am  

Steve Hickman, superintendent of Episcopal Collegiate, and Jeanne Joyner, president of the board of trustees, stand at the site of what will be the new kindergarten through fifth-grade school.

The trick of the private school trade is simple: attract more kindergartners than graduating seniors, Bennett said. To that end, Arkansas Baptist this year established a pre-K program for 3-year-olds that has added 12 students.

"The earlier you can get them, the better chance you have of keeping them in your school," he said.

Dueling Episcopalians

Episcopal Collegiate School at 1701 Cantrell Road in Little Rock seems to share the same school of thought. Episcopal, currently limited to grades six through 12, plans to enroll about 480 students after it completes the construction of its new elementary school.

Construction began in May on the 74,000-SF facility, which will include 24 classrooms for the pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade program. The campus, which is rising on what used to be a baseball field, will have specialized music, athletic and art facilities and a 25,000-SF playground area.

The facility should be completed in August 2009, and its completion is expected to have an immediate impact on The Cathedral School, a 51-year-old operation of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Little Rock.

Cathedral, which has been a feeder school for Episcopal since Episcopal opened in 1998, has devised its own plan to get kids in the door sooner. It has cut tuition by more than 4 percent and on Sept. 2 will open an early childhood education center for children from 6 weeks to 3 years old.

Trinity Cathedral has offered a $100,000 start-up grant for salaries and will continue to fund the early childhood education center, Cathedral School Principal Diane Brownlee said.

Meanwhile, Little Rock Christian Academy, at 19010 Highway 10 in Little Rock, has raised $5.5 million toward a $9 million high school construction project. The more than 50,000-SF high school will have a maximum capacity of 450 to 500 students. The school has a few students on its waiting list. The school expects the students to come from its existing market in central Arkansas. Director of Development Jason Carson said the school has had many families display interest, but LRCA didn't have the space to house all of the potential students.

The largest capital expansion in the central Arkansas private schools sector was Pulaski Academy's purchase of the Fellowship Bible Church campus at the southwest corner of Napa Valley Drive and Hinson Road for $18 million. Interim President Joe Hatcher said the school spent about $3 million renovating the five facilities, which total about 162,500 SF.

EStem Charter Schools started its first year on July 21 in the newly renovated Gazette building at Third and Louisiana streets. Water E. Hussman, president and chief executive officer of Wehco Media Inc., which owns the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and the Walton Foundation funded the $6.4 million renovation. The school currently has 848 students, just eight short of its maximum capacity. The school received more than 2,000 applications.

Lisa Academy's Sherwood expansion campus for kindergarten through eighth-grade students is in the 45,000-SF former Best Buy location on Landers Road. The facility has been renovated for the school's use; however, Principal Emin Cavusoglu did not know the cost of the renovation. The campus will add grades nine through 12 - one grade each year.



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