- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas has approved spending $44.5 million for 49 school construction, replacement and system repair projects across the state.

The Commission for Arkansas Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation voted in favor of the plan Wednesday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1UfGoDE ) reported.

Some of the projects that will receive state funding include a new middle school in Bentonville, a new high school in the Cutter-Morning Star School District, and new elementary schools in Arkadelphia and Rogers. Other projects are a renovation of Malvern High School and its gym, as well as electrical upgrades for the West Memphis district and building additions at four of its elementary schools.

“I’m surprised you didn’t hear me scream ‘hallelujah’ this morning when we got notification,” said Jon Collins, West Memphis superintendent.

Richland, Faulk, Maddux and Weaver elementary schools in the West Memphis district will receive a combined $7.7 million for electrical upgrades and building additions. With the rest of the electrical upgrades, the district is expected to receive a total of $16 million, Collins said.

“It’s been a long time since West Memphis School District has tackled a project like this,” Collins said. “We want to make sure we do our due diligence and take our time. We want to have a good product in the end for our learners.”

The state funding for individual projects ranges from as much as $5.2 million for each of the Malvern, Arkadelphia and Cutter-Morning Star campuses to as little as about $8,800 for work at Baker Elementary.

The Academic Facilities Partnership Program reimburses districts for a percentage of the cost of their state-approved school construction projects.

The program was created by Arkansas lawmakers about 10 years ago as a way to equalize educational opportunities in the state’s more than 230 school districts. Districts with more local property tax revenue qualify for a smaller share of state aid than those that generate little property tax revenue.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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