Facility improvements among topics at recent Board of Education meeting...

It is anticipated that voters in the Vilonia School District will be asked to approve a 3.8 millage increase, in September, for facility improvements that will include a 1,200 seat auditorium, high school cafeteria improvements, new band facilities, a new drama and music facility, new baseball fields, improvements to the softball facilities and a new parking lot.

Superintendent Dr. David Stephens told the Vilonia Board of Education, during the April meeting, that the district must be transparent regarding the plans allowing  everyone to know the cost and “what we get.”

Between now and then, he said “we will have a lot of public meetings.”  

All plans, Stephens said, are preliminary.  Pointing to an architect’s rendering, he said, “This is what it could look like based on the plans the architect has presented. “Nothing is set in stone at this point. My job is to communicate the districts’ needs, ultimately, what will benefit the students. It is the public’s job to support or not support.”

According to the current proposal, the estimated cost of the auditorium would be $5,782,000; the band classrooms, $1,215,000; the choir room renovation, $26,000; the corridor, $484,000; a retaining wall, $50,000; cafeteria, $1,080,000; serving kitchen renovation, $1,400,000; outdoor seating $265,500; baseball and softball $2,650,000 and parking lot $785,000 for a total of about $13,737,500.  Currently, there are other estimated funding sources of $2,561,852 with $11,175,648 needed for the project.

According to information provided by the district, as to what the increase in millage would mean to a property owner, those owning property valued $100,000 would pay an additional $76 per year or $6.33 per month. Those owning property valued at $200,000 would pay an additional $152 per year or $12.67 per month. 

If approved in September by voters, it is anticipated the project of turning the ballfield into a parking lot would begin shortly afterwards. The only way we can get an auditorium, Stephens said, is to give up the current softball fields where the parking lot would be moved.

On that note, Matt Sewell, high school principal, addressed the board regarding the proposed softball complex. It will not be just a field, Sewell offered.

“It will be more than just a $2.6 million place to swing a bat and hit a ball,” he said. “It will be a nice complex.” It will have inside practice facilities, locker rooms, concessions and a press box. 

It is anticipated the work on the auditorium would not begin until fall of 2017. It was said that the high school is 21 years old and was designed to hold 500 students. The remodel of it would also provide additional classroom areas.

In other business, the board:

--Approved the ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) handbook which will now take into account if there is another language used in student’s houses.

--Approved the 2016-17 school calendar. According to it, school would begin Aug. 15 and end May 24, should there be no make-up days extending it. Holidays would include Sept. 5. Thanksgiving break is set for Nov. 21-25 and Christmas break is set for Dec. 23-Jan. 6.

--Approved the 2014-15 legislative audit.

--Approved the School Choice Capacity Resolution. The deadline for School Choice applications is May 1.

--Approved catastrophic leave policy revisions, extending it to all employees, to cover unexpected absence involving an employee’s spouse and children. It was said that catastrophic illness does not include pregnancy without severe complications. 

--Approved a three-year contract with RAMCO Environmental for trash services, beginning August 1, at a cost of $3,690 monthly.

--Approved the purchase of 40 additional football helmets as a result of growth in the program and for replacements at a cost of $8,600. Also, approved the purchase of 122 uniforms at a cost of $14,528.  This purchase includes 99 new white uniforms and 23 red uniforms.

--Approved the purchase of 40 chrome books for special services for $10,400.

 --Approved the district fish fry/retirement recognition for 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 17. The fish fry will be at the elementary and the retirement recognition at the middle school gymnasium.   

--Accepted the resignation of business teacher Lana Lawrence.  Also, approved a contract change for Donna Young accepting her resignation of coaching Special Olympics.


--Deborah Mauldin, high school teacher and DECA advisor, gave a presentation on behalf of DECA national qualifiers. Nine students will compete at the International Career Development Conference national finals in Nashville, Tennessee, April 23-26, with students from around the world.

Mauldin said 12 qualified, at the state level, to go but three had conflicts preventing them from attending. The cost for conference fees, Mauldin said, is about $105 per person which does not include hotel expenses or food. The organization will take a Vilonia bus cutting down on some expense. The students, Mauldin said, have been selling smoked pork butts hoping to raise about $5,000.

--Mike Armstrong of Nabholz, provided an update on construction of the safe room at the Frank Mitchell Intermediate School. Work is progressing, he said, with dirt work, footings and foundations. By this time next month, he said, “you will see a big old box standing up there.”

Stephens also presented two change orders adding overflow parking and moving a dumpster enclosure and installing a new one.  Also, an asphalt driveway connecting the saferoom area to the main parking lot.