Jacksonville BOE talks traffic, funding for planned elementary school
by Katie Turpen
Jul 15, 2013 | 3207 views |  0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Plans for a new elementary school site continued Monday during the Jacksonville Board of Education’s meeting, where analysis of traffic conditions and necessary funding were the center of discussion.

"We are looking at what makes the most sense for our students long-term,” said Michael Poe, board president.

Mickey Hall of Skipper Engineering Inc. presented a comparative analysis that examined the traffic conditions at Kitty Stone Elementary School and the proposed site on George Douthit Drive across the street from Jacksonville High School. Hall and his team analyzed travel times, ability of roadways near the site to handle traffic, time required to clear the campus and onsite passenger loading and unloading.

“Basically the site the school is on now is an average site,” Hall said. “The proposed site is a good site.”

The main advantage of the proposed site would be the large difference in the time it would take to clear the campus in the afternoon.

“Right now it’s taking 40 minutes to clear the campus,” Hall said. “At the new site, it would take 20 minutes.”

However, a new site would come with several setbacks. The area surrounding the proposed site lacks sidewalks. In addition, the school’s distance from the center of town would be a longer commute for the majority of the school. However, Hall said the new site would help improve traffic circulation as a whole, especially in terms of loading and unloading students from cars and buses.

"The prospective site is the best site from a traffic/transportation perspective,” Hall said.

A new school would mean the board would have to create a debt consolidation plan with the help of the city. Superintendent Jon Campbell said the board annually has $100,000 to go toward debt services. In a work session following the meeting, Ken Funderburk, executive vice president of Merchant Capital LLC, presented an update on the bond market. Funderburk emphasized the next step is for the city council to work with the board to come up with a contractual agreement to obtain the money needed for various projects.

“It’s not a bad time to enter the market with long-term debt,” Funderburk said. “Your only danger is interest rates.”

In addition to a new elementary school, another added expense would be making sure a new school could accommodate the new pre-K program, which recently received more than $120,000 in state grant money. The grant covers funding for a pre-K teacher and instructional assistant, both of which were approved at Monday night’s meeting.

“It’s going to make a huge impact on the community and improve the quality of life,” Campbell said. “It’s going to give these kids the extra boost they need to start kindergarten.”

Also during Monday’s meeting, the board:

• Received a presentation on the 2013 preliminary AP Exam results of Jacksonville High School students. For the 5th year in a row, Jacksonville students scored above the global average for Calculus tests.

• Received an update on the Jacksonville City School’s digital conversion project set to officially kick off on Monday, July 29. School officials will issue 1,200 iPads to students at the start of the school year and teachers have been in training workshops since June.

·• Received an update that the Jacksonville City School’s special education team of 14 teachers officially met state requirements for this year.

Staff Writer Katie Turpen: 256-235-3548. On Twitter @KTurpen_Star.

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