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.

Central Arkansas Christian Schools has completed construction of its new science center and is still doing some renovations to its main campus. The improvements, spokesman Casey Neese said, won't add to the schools' 1,200 student capacity, but CAC hopes the renovations will attract new students. CAC has so far raised $2.1 million.

Mount St. Mary Academy expects to complete its $7.7 million expansion and renovation project by September 2009. The expansion will add about 6,400 SF, creating about 60 seats.

The renovations will affect the "1953 building" and the "1977 building," named after the years they were built.

The addition includes an expanded library and media center, an enlarged theater arts and family and consumer science classrooms, development offices and multipurpose meeting rooms.

The project will also update technology capabilities in all the classrooms.

(Click here to seen a rendering of Mt. St. Mary's expansion.)

One Size Doesn't Fit All

What is fueling this interest in alternative education that has stimulated such growth, especially in an economy with sky-high construction costs and constricting family budgets?

"I think the real driver is that not every setting is right for every child," said Steve Hickman, superintendent of Episcopal Collegiate. "I think that is becoming more and more conventional wisdom, that different children thrive in different environments.

"And I think that's why you're seeing this growth in different options. And I think another tie is most of these options - whether it's privately or publicly funded, charter or magnet, independent schools - one common element is most of them are relatively small. And I think many families consider that a strength for their child."

Hickman said he is confident Episcopal will be able to fill the seats from its existing market. He also said many families who already have a student in the sixth-through-12th-grade campus have expressed an interest in sending their younger children to Episcopal. Hickman wouldn't quantify the number.

Asked if the expansion stemmed from competition for students, Hickman said the expansion is more about providing families with an uninterrupted, consistent education in terms of curriculum and religious training.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.

Latest Arkansas Business Poll

Do you approve of the president taking executive action on immigration?