ARP – With overwhelming voter support, Arp ISD officials broke ground Wednesday on construction of a new complex to replace Arp Junior High's existing facilities.

The new junior high will be a two-story structure. It will house 16 classrooms, two resource rooms, a library, cafeteria, gymnasium, art room, computer room, dressing facilities for athletes, an elevator and offices for the administration and special education.

Voters last November approved an $11.6-million bond issue to fund the full cost of the junior high and some improvements to the band hall and elementary school.

The proposition passed with 62 percent of voters in favor and 38 percent opposed. The average Arp ISD taxpayer will have an annual tax increase of $152 to pay off the bond, according to Junior High Principal Dwight Thomas.

Junior high students, school board members, administrators and others gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony.

School Board President Dennis Ford told the crowd, "This community recognized the need for upgrading our facilities by a large margin to pass this bond so that we could go ahead and build this new middle school. It's something we've needed for some time and it's something that will last this community and the school a long time. We thank the community for that."

He added, "We are doing it for our children and the future of this community."

The board of trustees and administration weighed the possibility of sinking a lot of money into repairing the old building versus constructing a new building, Superintendent Toney Lowery said in an interview prior to the groundbreaking ceremony.

"We weighed the cost effectiveness of doing something long term as opposed to just patching and paying for it," Lowery said. The district would still have a 42-year-old building if it went the route of repairing the existing building, he said.

Thomas said the old building has "quite a bit of foundation issues, walls cracking and leaks that are impossible to find because of so many layers of roofing. It's time has come and gone." 

It just wasn't fiscally responsible to repair the old junior high, Thomas said.

Lowery said, "The board decided they would like to take it (a bond issue to fund a new structure) to voters and see what the voters had to say. Our voters were very supportive (of constructing a new building)."

Lowery added, "I'd like to thank the voters for their support and their faith in the school district and the trust they put in us to do what's right by the kids."

The first story of the new building will contain 40,000 square feet. Most of the classrooms will be on the 18,571-square-foot second floor.

The new building is designed to house 280 students. However, the cafeteria and gymnasium are being constructed for growth up to 400 students, Thomas said.

"What this means is if we do grow, as expected, at some point we can add more classrooms but will not need to add on to the gym or cafeteria because they are already being built to a capacity of 400," Thomas said.

Enrollment currently fluctuates from 175 to 225, with present enrollment of 180.

The new junior high, which will be on the grounds of the current facility, will be of contemporary architectural style, the principal said. Architect is the Tyler firm of Eubanks, Harris, Roberts and Craig. The construction manager is RPR Construction, also of Tyler.

The building will have two parking lots – one in front and another in back to serve both the junior high and the stadium.

The construction project will start, Thomas said, with tearing down a couple of metal buildings, a set of classrooms, the old field house and old band hall to make room for the new building.

By Aug. 1, work will begin on the new building and it will open in the fall of 2016, according to the superintendent and principal. All of the existing building will be demolished.


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