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Greenwood Board Hears Proposed Freshman Center Update

<p>PHOTO BY MARY L. CRIDER</p><p>In this MAHG architecture concept plan for a proposed two-story Greenwood School District Freshman Center addition to the high school, the gray building is the existing high school, the darker gray area will be the Freshman Center and the other-colored area represents the needed expansion, architect Michael Lejong said during a presentation to the School Board Thursday, April 10, 2014.</p>

PHOTO BY MARY L. CRIDER

In this MAHG architecture concept plan for a proposed two-story Greenwood School District Freshman Center addition to the high school, the gray building is the existing high school, the darker gray area will be the Freshman Center and the other-colored area represents the needed expansion, architect Michael Lejong said during a presentation to the School Board Thursday, April 10, 2014.

<p>PHOTO BY MARY L. CRIDER</p><p>This MAHG architecture site plan for a proposed two-story, 50,000-square-foot Greenwood School District Freshman Center addition to the high school, shows how the expansion would sit on the site, architect Michael LeJong said during a presentation to the School Board Thursday, April 10, 2014.</p>

PHOTO BY MARY L. CRIDER

This MAHG architecture site plan for a proposed two-story, 50,000-square-foot Greenwood School District Freshman Center addition to the high school, shows how the expansion would sit on the site, architect Michael LeJong said during a presentation to the School Board Thursday, April 10, 2014.

Greenwood School District will receive $2.28 million in funding from the Arkansas Department of Education for a proposed Freshman Center, Superintendent John Ciesla told the School Board on Monday.

The board was told in 2013 the project had been approved.

The proposed center isn’t just about creating a space to transition ninth-graders more successfully into their high school years, it is also about creating needed space district wide for about 360 students, Ciesla said.

He told the board the Freshman Center expansion to the high school would allow the district to reallocate its existing space so that the district would then have two kindergarten through fourth-grade schools one fifth- and sixth-grade building, a seventh- and eighth-grade building, the Freshman Center and grades 10-12 at the high school.

The concept plan developed by MAHG Architecture will bring much of the ninth-grade and high school under one roof, where facilities such as the business and science labs can be shared rather than duplicated, Ciesla said, adding that he thought the state Department of Education liked that idea.

MAHG principal architect Michael Lejong said a two-story classroom/lab/office addition to the existing high school is planned in the area where the old agriculture/greenhouse building now sits. Original plans called for a 37,000-square-foot addition, but with the two levels, the space is expanded to 50,000 square feet, some of which will be shelled-out for future growth needs, Lejong said.

Lejong said his firm would start work on preliminary cost estimates, and once the district gets all its funding in place, the construction process should take about 18 months.

Lejong said the architects are also considering a possible locker room/classroom addition to the gymnasium, but the size and scope of that work has not yet been determined.

District administrators have said they estimate the total cost for the center to run from $10 million to $12 million, depending on its scope.

In other business, Ciesla told the board administrators at each Greenwood campus are working on applications for their building to receive the Arkansas Department of Education’s Schools of Innovation designation.

He said he asked the administrators to submit their applications to him by April 16, and he proposed the board call a special meeting to approve submitting the applications to the state Department of Education by its May 1 deadline for the 2014-15 school year.

The four-year Schools of Innovation designation, enabled by Act 601 of 2013, paves a way for schools to try new ways of instructing students and allocating resources by receiving waivers on specific state education standards or laws. The state commissioner of education must approve those exemptions.

Ciesla has said the school seeking the designation must appoint a council of innovation to generate innovative ideas and proposals. At least 60 percent of the employees in the applicant school must support seeking the designation.

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