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The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

New High School Gets Green Light On Current Site

By Rose Ann Pearce
FAYETTEVILLE -- A 21st century high school will be built on the current site of Fayetteville High School.

After more than two years of contentious, often divisive discussion, the Fayetteville School Board authorized the school district's administrative team "to conceptualize and present a plan for a 21st century pre-K through 12 school system that includes one new high school on the existing site."

Thursday's vote was unanimous, climaxing 26 months of conversation, research, study and community input that divided many patrons into one of two camps, one supporting the current site and the other in favor of selling the property and building at a new location.

Assistant Superintendent Dick Johnson said the nine-member administrative team is ready to move forward with planning a new school on the current 40-acre site.

The district already has asked city officials about closing Stone Street, which could add just more than an acre to the construction site.

No other details on construction were discussed. The administrative team as well as principals and teachers are expected to visit 21st century schools. Several such schools have been identified, including one with an enrollment of 3,000 built on 16 acres in Boston, Mass., Johnson said.

Technology will be the centerpiece in Fayetteville's 21st century school, Johnson said.

"Throughout all of this, everyone wanted a new school. That's a unifying theme. I think we're there," said board member Tim Kring. "We had to look at all the options. I'm glad to see where we are. We have to ask our community to focus on helping us move forward."

Board member Becky Purcell said she is concerned the board may not gain the community trust without a discussion on the size of the new school.

The board has settled on a configuration of grades nine through 12 but hasn't been able to agree on the maximum size of a new school and at what point the discussion would shift to a second high school.

If a new high school is opened in four or five years with the ninth grade, enrollment could be about 2,700 students, based on current figures. A growth spurt in Fayetteville could send that number upward.

"We have had size discussions all the way through with so many camps of thought," said board member Susan Heil. "I would like to trust you to have that conversation."

Johnson said the administrative team is "very comfortable" in discussing size and making a recommendation to the board.

The administrative team doesn't have a timetable for bringing any recommendations to the board for action. Johnson said the site visits will be done first and could start in the next few weeks.

"Tonight was the go button," Johnson said.

At A Glance

No New Boundaries

The Fayetteville School Board probably will delay any major revisions to elementary school boundaries before the 2010-2011 school year.

Assistant Superintendent John L Colbert recommended the delay Thursday, noting, however, attendance boundaries for Root and Holcomb elementary schools may have to be modified this year to alleviate crowding.

Board member Becky Purcell has been meeting with administrative staff to lay some groundwork on criteria and suggested the board could wait to review the boundaries until after the completion of renovation at Butterfield Trail Elementary School.

The original plan was to have new attendance zones drawn for the entire district when the Butterfield renovation was completed in 2009.

Source: Staff Report

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