BY MELANIE BUCK –
The Mena School Board is prepared to move ahead on a couple of major projects that are upcoming for the district. In their March monthly meeting, the school board signed an easement for the North Morgan Street roadway agreement, contingent upon the State Highway Commission’s plans.
Although an exact start date is not set for the construction of the new roadway that is hoped will alleviate traffic coming in and out of Holly Harshman Elementary, bids will be let out on May 31, 2017. Work is expected to begin within 45 days of bid approval. That pushes the dates out to around July 2017, with the completion date coming before the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. The street will run from Highway 71, near Sun Country Inn, to Holly Harshman.
Another major project that is steaming ahead is the expansion of Louise Durham Elementary. “I’m glad to say, at this point, everything is coming together in our budget,” said District Superintendent Benny Weston. He expects documentation to be complete by mid-April, and the bidding process will begin. Once the documents and bids are approved, the contract price on the large expansion will be provided to the school board with construction start dates to follow.
The $8 million renovation/expansion of Louise Durham Elementary will include a systems upgrade and the addition of approximately 16,000 square feet to the existing building, including approximately 14 classrooms, a new office area, and a large bathroom being built near the existing front entrance. The current renderings of the proposed project show a new exterior design that will match closely with Mena High School, keeping the same color schemes and large façade. The addition will see an end to modular units now in use and all students will be housed in the main building that will accommodate up to 600 students. Student drop-off and pick-up areas will change slightly when the project is completed.
The systems upgrade portion is a $2.4 million project. Mena Public Schools will be responsible for only half of that cost, $1.2 million, because the district seized the opportunity to secure a matching grant from the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation, which will pay the remaining $1.2 million. Mena’s portion will come from their building fund. The renovation and expansion of the facility will cost approximately $5.6 million and will be paid for through the district’s building fund and bond extension.