North Little Rock Schools in the Middle Of a $223 Million Makeover

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 12:00 am  

North Little Rock School District’s $223 million capital improvement project is underway, and when both phases are done, much of the district’s 50-plus-year-old infrastructure will be replaced.

“This project has been coming into place for the last good four years,” said Gerald Cound, director of facilities management for the district.

The need was great for the district, Cound said — many of the buildings were showing their age.

“For the most part, these facilities have all been in place for over 50 years,” Cound said. “So it was time. And so this is a statement from the community that they’re going to continue to support their public schools.”

The project’s total cost was originally estimated to be $265 million, said NLRSD’s chief financial officer, Denise Drennan, and the district hoped to get $66 million of that from the Arkansas Department of Education.

But state officials deemed that Lakewood Middle School was not in need of replacement, reducing the overall cost by about $42 million. And ultimately, the district got about $25 million in state assistance.

Cound said the district set its “expectations pretty high,” but the project organizers have since been able to make up for that early shortcoming, and the outline still resembles what was set forth early on. Still, the project was initially slowed.

“We had hoped to get our projects off the ground probably two to three months earlier than we managed to get them off the ground,” Cound said.

Eventually, the project found funding from three additional sources: district savings, a millage increase and some bond issues.

School consolidation is expected to save $8.3 million annually, savings that will help pay for the construction. But the biggest piece of the funding came from a 7.4-mill increase in the district property tax levy, which was approved by district voters in February 2012.

Bonds totaling $135 million have already been issued, and another bond issue may be necessary depending on how some of the projects progress through the winter.

“The one we have will get us through the current fiscal year,” Drennan said.

Phase I

Now that the money is in the right place, work has begun on all of the district’s first-phase projects. They include new school buildings for four aging elementary schools — Amboy, Boone Park, Lakewood and Meadow Park — and an expansion of the historic high school at the corner of Main and 22nd streets.

The DLR Group, a large architecture firm with multiple U.S. locations, was chosen as the master architects for the project, and Little Rock’s Baldwin & Shell Construction Co. was brought in as the general contractor.

Each of the new elementary schools will be about twice the size of the existing ones, Cound said. Classrooms will be larger, more flexible spaces will be built, and recreation areas will be improved. Computer labs, music rooms and art rooms will be added.

“We’ll have after-hours access points so the community can have more access,” Cound said. “We’ll have a parent center with technology and meeting areas and separate bus and car routes. For example, the media centers in the past have been in the neighborhood of 800 to 900 square feet, and with the new construction they’ll be 1,600 to 1,800 square feet.”

The new buildings are prototypes and will all have similar characteristics to each other. Sizes will be slightly different, Cound said, but for the most part the buildings will have the same basic arrangements and will range from 60,000 to 70,000 SF.

Three of the four sites will completely replace the original buildings, Cound said.

“We will have to tear down or demolish the old ones, then rebuild playgrounds, traffic areas into the school, landscape and parking areas,” Cound said. “All of those things will have to be built after we complete the new building and demolish the old building.”

Only Amboy Elementary will remain standing after construction is finished.

“We have complete separation between the new property and the old property,” Cound said. “In this case, we’ll be able to build all of those things — a playground, parking area, all those things — without having to tear anything down.”

Because the high school is a historic building, construction there will be in addition to the original structure. Cound said the current 200,000-SF campus accommodates only 11th- and 12th-graders. When the new campus is done, it will comprise 480,000 SF — room for the ninth- and 10th-graders who currently attend the NLRHS East Campus near McCain and Highway 67/167.

Only 130,000 SF of that addition is part of the first phase of construction, Cound said, with the rest coming later.

In addition, a new football stadium will be built to replace the Depression-era stadium on Main Street.

“The old one is being torn down,” Cound said. “We’re going north-south instead of east-west. The south end will be tucked into actual school environment.”

Phase II

The elementary schools in the first phase are expected to be completed roughly by November 2014, Cound said, though exact dates may vary due to demolition work.

Before those are finished, work will begin on the second phase of the capital improvement project.

Cound said work on Phase II is expected to begin by the beginning of March.

“So we would be off and running with those before the others are completely finished,” he said.

It will include new buildings for Crestwood and Glenview Elementary Schools; renovations and additions to Pike View, Seventh Street and Indian Hills Elementary Schools; and improvements on Ridgeroad Middle School.

As part of this phase, Pike View will become a pre-K center, Lakewood and Ridgeroad Middle Schools will transition into a new North Little Rock Middle School, and the administrative offices will move to the high school campus, leaving the current facility at 2700 Poplar St. for other services.

All of the work, Cound said, is expected to be finished by 2015.

Phase I Phase II
Amboy Elementary School Crestwood Elementary School
Architect: DLR Architect: DLR Group, Taggart
Contractor: Baldwin & Shell Contractor: Baldwin & Shell
Boone Park
Elementary School
Elementary School
Architect: DLR Group Architect: DLR Group, Taggart
Contractor: Baldwin & Shell Contractor: Baldwin & Shell
Elementary School
Indian Hills Elementary School Renovation/Additions
Architect: DLR Group Architect: Lewis Elliott & Studer
Contractor: Baldwin & Shell Contractor: Nabholz
Meadow Park Elementary School Pike Elementary School
Architect: DLR Group Architect: DLR Group, Hydco Inc., Taggart
Contractor: Hydco Inc. Contractor: Hydco Inc.
North Little Rock
High School Additions
Ridgeroad Middle
School Improvements
Architect: DLR Group Architect: Lewis Elliott & Studer
Contractor: Baldwin & Shell Contractor: Nabholz
  Seventh Street Elementary School Renovation/Additions
  Architect: Jackson Brown Palculict
  Contractor: Baldwin & Shell



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