Riverside breaks ground for new elementary

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Riverside East Elementary facility included Rep. Dan Sullivan; Superintendent Tommy Knight; Governor Asa Hutchinson; Principal Brandi Wallace; Lake City Mayor Jon Milligan; Caraway Mayor Barry Riley; and members of the Riverside School Board.

It was called a monumental day for students, faculty, and the community as a large crowd gathered Thursday, April 16, for the groundbreaking ceremony for Riverside School District's East Elementary. The $5.5 million construction is expected to be completed by February 2016.

Principal Brandi Wallace welcomed everyone and talked about the memories and what the school had meant to her and others who have passed through.

"With progress comes change and we are excited for our students who will be coming into a new facility," Ms. Wallace said.

Superintendent Tommy Knight seconded Mrs. Wallace's excitement for the students who will be moving into a technology rich building in about 10 months.

"It has been a long time coming but we are here," Knight said.

Dale Haas, former Craighead County judge, introduced the guest speaker, Governor Asa Hutchinson.

Haas said a good education will take one a long way.

"Being a person of integrity will also take you a long way," Haas said. "It is my honor to introduce the guest speaker, the youngest person to hold a U.S. Attorney position, elected to Congress three times, served as the head of DEA and the first under secretary in the nation for Homeland Security and the 46th Governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson."

"I wanted to come here for the groundbreaking to show my support of Northeast Arkansas and my support of education," Gov. Hutchinson said. "I love small towns. They are the heart blood of Arkansas. I grew up in a town with a population of 1,000. I grew up in a small school and was raised on a small farm. My parents had a high school education but inspired me to go on to college and get a better education. In my life I didn't plan anthing in particular. One month after 911 President Bush asked me to help set up Home Security. It is a privilege to be elected Governor of Arkansas."

Governor Hutchinson talked about the importance of education. "Education is important and it has to be funded," he said. "We just finished our legislative session, and it was a good one. We lowered taxes. We addressed prison overcrowding issues. With all of that, we were still able to fully fund education in Arkansas. It would not have been a good session if we didn't fund education, which we did."

Hutchinson praised the local leadership including teachers, school board members and the communities for their support.

"We have good teachers that challenge our students to do well on the ACT testing," he said. "Before me the Governor's Distinguished Scholarship was established to offer students who make 32 or above on their ACT the opportunity to go to any college in Arkansas. I was told we have a hundred more students making 32 now than before. That was the good news. The bad news was there was not enough money. One option was to tell students money was not available. That was not right so I took $2 million from the Governor's Emergency Fund for the additional scholarships."

Governor Hutchinson said starting next year computer science will be taught in every Arkansas high school.

"I got a call from WIRED magazine out of New York asking 'why is Arkansas leading the nation in offering comprehensive computer program?' I was just happy to be asked. We are not only mandating it, but we are funding it. I would love to see 20 percent of our students taking computer coding classes."

He went on to say beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, schools will be required to offer a minimum of one computer science class. The state is offering schools free access to Virtual Arkansas, an online learning portal used by the Arkansas Department of Education to teach classes and train teachers.

Governor Hutchinson joined Superintendent Knight, Principal Brandi Wallace, Board members Greg Douglas, Ricky Austin, Mike Brickell, Mike Brown, Len B. Nall, Rep. Dan Sullivan, Caraway Mayor Barry Riley and Lake City Mayor Jon Milligan in a ceremonial ground breaking in the gymnasium.

The Riverside High School Band, under the direction of Stephen Alsup, and the Riverside Rebel cheerleders participated in the ceremony. Student Bethany Tucker led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The ground breaking ceremony was followed by Riverside elementary students participating in a balloon release.

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