New high school topic of public meeting

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Manila school district administrators, Pam Castor, superintendent; Chris Ferrell, assistant superintendent; Robin Baugher, high school principal; John Mixon, architect with Cromwell and Associates; and Danny Robbins, school board president, were present at a public meeting held at Manila High School on Monday, Dec. 30.

Manila Assistant Superintendent Chris Ferrell leads an informative public meeting on the proposed millage increase for a new high school facility.

A public meeting was held at Etowah Fire Station earlier in the evening welcoming patrons of the school district and giving them the opportunity to meet with school administrators to discuss a proposed millage increase for the purpose of constructing a new high school facility.

Monday night was one of several meetings to discuss the building project.

The superintendent's office was open Dec. 23 and Dec. 27 from 2-6:30 p.m. for patrons to drop by and view the plans and ask any questions they might have about the project.

The final meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the high school auditorium.

Those attending the public meetings on Monday saw proposed plans and had the opportunity to ask questions and express their opinions.

Ferrell expressed his excitement about the project. The proposed sight on Highway 18 will consist of 40-60 acres with room for expansion as needed. The two story building will house 20 classrooms, physical education complex, workforce areas, large auditorium and more.

Ferrell pointed out the security features of the new high school and how the hallways, like the new elementary building, will serve as safe rooms.

Mixon said there is a need for a new high school as everything points to growth of Manila.

Ferrell said everywhere he goes, someone is asking about Manila School.

He answered some of the most asked questions.

*Why build and not repair?

"To try to bring the old buildings up to code could cost more than a new building," Ferrell said.

*Why off campus?

"We have a traffic problem," he said. "We do a good job of managing it, but it is still a problem. With growth, the problem will get worse."

Ferrell pointed out with the expected new industry and School Choice, Manila will see continued growth. Manila's enrollment is currently close to 1,100.

"It is a good time to be a Lion," said Ferrell, a 1989 Manila High School graduate. "We have been asked why not tear down and build where we are. It would be a big cost to bring in mobile classrooms, the traffic would be bad and there are safety issues. We have something special here and we have to work at it. One reason I moved back is I want my son to be educated here. We have the best teachers right here. That includes our veteran teachers and our new teachers. We want to continue to grow and offer the best education possible to our students."

Tipton Hall is over 50 years old and the present high school was built in the 1970s.

Bobby Walton, a contractor/builder, agreed sometimes it is better to build new. He said in the long run sometimes it can be cheaper than remodeling.

"With the new school it will be something the community can be proud of," Walton said. "Considering new school versus remodeling, at the end of the day there has been a lot of old remodeling."

Ferrell was asked what would happen to the present buildings.

"All of the space is being utilized," Ferrell said. "Some of the buildings over 50 years old may have to be torn down. We would love to keep as much as possible."

He went on to say the middle school and elementary school are at capacity so there would be a use for the buildings.

Ms. Baugher said she liked the layout of the proposed new high school.

"I would love having all my chicks under one roof for the safety aspect," she said. "Everything is under one roof and all classes are accessable inside the building."

A special election will be held Jan. 14. The District is requesting 4.7 new debt service mills. The new total millage rate will be 41.4 total mills.

Information pamphlets were distributed giving cost of the additional mills on real estate tax. For example a real estate value appraised at $100,000 would have an additional $94 a year on the current 36.7 total mills.

The additional millage would generate the District's part of the total project. About two-thirds of the total cost of the project will be funded by the State Partnership money with the district's cost approximately one third.

Ferrell said he wants voters to be informed when they go to the polls to vote.

"We want each voter to know exactly what we are doing and where the money will go," Castor said.

Board president Robbins said it is crunch time for the community.

"We want to keep control of our school," Robbins said.

The question was asked, what happens if the millage does not pass.

"I was called to Little Rock for a meeting when the millage did not pass last time," Castor said. "If it doesn't pass the state can come in and fix what needs fixing. If this happens, the district will not be allowed to have extracurricular activities, including all sports and more, until we pay them back in full."

Robbins said engineers have been here and looked at the facilities and they will be back. There is a concern on what renovation it would take to bring everything up to code. Robbins also talked about the improvement on technology available to the students a new facility would provide.

Ferrell mentioned earlier in the meeting, the school belongs to the community. He also said the existing gymnasium and football stadium would remain in the same location for competitive sports.

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