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PRAIRIE GROVE -- After looking at several options on what to do with the former Arvest Bank building in downtown Prairie Grove, the School Board agreed the best path forward financially for the school district will be to keep the building and use it for administration offices and as space for technology and other school staff.

The board, meeting in a work session last week, did not take a formal vote but came to a verbal consensus as interim Superintendent Reba Holmes presented three options on what to do with the building and how each option would affect the school district financially.

Holmes said the former Arvest building on Buchanan Street has 12,000 square feet on the first level and another 5,000 square feet on the second level.

This building would be large enough to house the four administrative positions, four administrative assistants, reading specialist, English as a Second Language director, director of food services, special education secretary, a professional development room, board room and space for the district's backpack program.

The technology department would be housed in an area of the building that would provide three offices, workspace and storage.

The building also has room for growth, kitchen facilities and space upstairs that could be used for technology storage and workspace.

By moving these offices and staff to the former bank, the district will be able to move two pre-kindergarten classes to the present administration building, freeing up space at the elementary school, Holmes said. The move also would allow the high school to open up another career class in the current administration building.

The first two options on the table both proposed selling the building. However, Holmes said she learned after multiple conversations with people on the state level that the school would have to sell the building by Feb. 1 or it then could become available for a charter school to purchase and use.

Along with selling the building, the school still would have to construct either a new building for the technology department or a new building to house both administration offices and the technology department. Holmes estimated costs for these two buildings could range from $300,000 to $600,000 and there would be other questions to consider, such as location, cost of preparation work and when the buildings could be completed.

The school would not receive any state funding for either of those buildings.

Prairie Grove School District has applied for state partnership money to help build a new seventh- and eighth-grade school and will find out about its request in May 2019.

As part of this plan, the district will have to tear down several buildings when the new middle school is completed. These displaced people will need a place to go and the Arvest bank building would take care of that issue, Holmes said.

After presenting her options, board member Casie Ruland quickly responded, "Option 3."

The board's consensus to keep the Arvest bank is a turnaround from a vote in August to find a real estate firm to try to sell the building. The school bought the building from Arvest in April for $600,000 but in August, board members decided they did not like the idea of moving administration offices off the school campus and had heard from some people in the community who did not like the idea either.

Board member Jerry Coyle admitted he was the one to bring up selling the building in August and he based that on what he was hearing from the community.

He agreed, though, the district needs to use the bank building and should go ahead and make the move.

He said he did not think the building would sell quickly, adding he had approached the city and people in the business world to see if they would be interested. No one was interested in buying the building, Coyle said.

Holmes said as superintendent she prefers to stay on campus but pointed out that whenever she visits the different school campuses, she still gets in her car to drive to the buildings. She would continue to do that if the offices move downtown, she said.

"This is already bought," Coyle said. "It's a very nice building."

He said he didn't like for the school board "to waffle" on decisions but said, "As a building, financially, we can't do any better."

The school's best choice is to use the bank building and from a town perspective, it will make the administration more approachable being located in the downtown area, Coyle said.

Ruland expressed her appreciation to Holmes for her research and time in putting together the options for the board.

"I'm glad we took the time to look at this," Ruland said.

Holmes said she did not think there would be many costs to get the bank building ready for administration and other offices.

The technology department has already spent $6,000 to prepare for the move. The school has the equipment needed for the personnel and as part of the purchase, Arvest left furniture, such as desks, chairs and other items.

One expense would be renovating the current bank teller counters to create space for school board meetings.

After the meeting, Holmes said the work session gave the board the opportunity "to step back to truly look at everything."

General News on 10/10/2018

Print Headline: School Board Decides To Use Arvest Building After All

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