New Jacksonville Elementary Offers Classroom Walls, Progressing Towards District Desegregation Bonds
JACKSONVILLE – On January 5, the Jacksonville / North Pulaski School District opens its fourth new school and second elementary school in 3.5 years.
The new Jacksonville Elementary at 2400 Linda Lane will accommodate nearly 700 K-5 students and 50 staff who will gather from the soon-to-be-closed Pinewood and Warren Dupree elementary campuses.
The new brown brick elementary school with red metal trim sits next to Jacksonville Middle School, which first opened in August. If Linda Lane’s address sounds familiar to you, nearby elementary and secondary schools can be found on the site of what was once Jacksonville High.
With the new Jacksonville Elementary, the school system has four new operational schools, with two more to be built, to meet its goal – and the direction of a federal judge presiding over a long-running school desegregation trial – of replacing the entire its original eight campuses with six new buildings.
The entire construction is taking place in a district which is only in its fifth year of existence. The 3,800-student district broke away from the neighboring Pulaski County Special School District and began operating independently in 2016.
The new district inherited the desegregation bonds from the Pulaski County Special District in what is now a 39-year federal lawsuit. These obligations in the two districts include the equalization of the condition of older school buildings, which are often found in communities with large black student populations, with the newer buildings in the Pulaski County Special District which are in predominantly white neighborhoods.
“It’s beautiful,” said Daniel Gray, president of the Jacksonville / North Pulaski school board, after a recent visit by the board of directors of the new elementary school led by architect Matthew Swaim of WER. Architecture / Planners. WER is the company that designed the district schools that Baldwin & Shell Construction Co. has built or is building.
“I think our kids deserve it. It’s pretty cool to see the vision – what we were hoping for and striving for – actually coming together,” Gray said. “Knowing where we came from and what these children have now – is such a blessing.”
‘BEST POSSIBLE INSTALLATION’
Classroom safeguards and walls – yes, the walls – set the new school apart from its previous schools which were designed in the mid-20th century as “open space” schools, meaning that only bookcases and other furniture separated the learning spaces and the muted noise.
“This transition means our students will have the best possible facilities,” said April Turner, principal of Jacksonville Elementary School. “I know for sure that they deserve it because they have been in buildings that did not have classroom walls. I know it will enhance their learning and their sense of worth, and it will make them proud. of their education. “
Jacksonville Elementary’s security features begin with a closed vestibule that prevents visitors from entering the main school building without being admitted by staff from the school’s administrative office.
The school cafeteria – with its large raised stage at the south end and closed kitchen to the north, also serves as a storm shelter, with garage-style metal doors that lower above the hallway and exterior windows in case of security threat.
A multi-purpose activity room has a soft floor and a material on the wall to absorb sound. The brightly colored outdoor playground at the front of the school is anchored to a rubberized and flexible surface.
The $ 18.5 million school building has approximately 40 classrooms, including two stand-alone special education classrooms and a gifted and talented education classroom. The library / multimedia center, a computer lab, music and art rooms, a reading lab and a suspension room in the school are other features.
The full-sized elementary gymnasium, located between elementary school and middle school, doubles as a much needed storm shelter for middle school students
The south side of the primary school has two floors, the first floor housing the administrative office suite and a corridor of glazed first and second grade classrooms.
On the second floor – accessible by stairs at each end and down the middle, as well as an elevator – are the third, fourth and fifth year classes.
Eight kindergarten classes form a single-storey corridor at the north end of the school.
Between the north and south ends of the school, on either side of the main hallway, are the cafeteria and multipurpose room as well as the music and art rooms, and rooms for students with special needs, including speech therapy and occupational therapy rooms and two independent classrooms. The two independent rooms are separated by a “cooling” room and a laundry room which includes a toilet, a shower and a washing machine.
The main hallway and the classroom hallways are a combination of gray cement bricks and horizontal wood-look paneling. Accents of dark orange, lime green, bright yellow, teal, and red highlight a hallway skylight and hallway notice boards. Classrooms have a colored accent wall. Color is used to denote “rooms” or spaces in a classroom.
The new primary is the latest development in the neighborhood’s short history.
As part of the Pulaski County Special School District, residents of the Jacksonville area had tried for decades to create their own district – largely so they could update old campuses.
Bobby G. Lester Elementary, which opened in 2018, was the first new traditional public school in the Jacksonville area in 37 years. It replaced Tolleson and Arnold Drive elementary schools.
The new Jacksonville High followed, opened in August 2019, and Jacksonville Middle opened last August.
LITIGATION OVER TAYLOR
The district plans to replace Bayou Meto and Murrell Taylor elementary schools with new campuses in the near future.
District leaders, however, have been in a long dispute with the state’s Education Facilities and Transportation Division over the Taylor replacement.
The state has maintained that the 40-year-old campus is too new to be fully replaced at partial state expense. The district argued that it had committed to the federal lawsuit to replace the school with state aid.
Earlier this year, the district filed a lawsuit in the ongoing desegregation lawsuit over the state’s reluctance to help fund the new campus. In recent weeks, however, district leaders have become more optimistic about the state’s funding, following a preliminary review conference with state officials on its plans, as the code allows. Arkansas annotated 6-20-2515.
Now, the district must apply by March 1 for public funding for the 2023-2025 state partnership program funding cycle.
The state division should fully assess all project applications and provide school districts with its preliminary written determinations. Project funding will be determined by May 2023 for Year 1 projects and May 2024 for Year 2 projects.
U.S. District Chief Justice D. Price Marshall Jr., presiding judge, ruled in May this year that the Jacksonville District was unitary and released from judicial oversight of its desegregation efforts, except for the installation problems.
The judge ruled in September 2018 that the Jacksonville district would have the right to be released from federal court oversight of its school buildings by 2026 if it fulfills its commitments.
“The plan for the JNPSD is extraordinary,” Marshall wrote in that order of 2018. “In about a dozen years after its inception, the district will have built a new high school, a new middle school, and four new elementary schools. The good faith of the JNPSD is demonstrated by the plan itself and the progress already made.