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Prairie Grove School District 46 Board to consider spending millions on upgrades

Prairie Grove Elementary School could get a major face-lift if an effort to spend tens of millions of dollars on the school moves forward. The premium renovation option being considered (shown here) would cost about $60 million and include demolition of the north wing classrooms and gym, along with upgrades and a floor plan reconfiguration.
Prairie Grove Elementary School could get a major face-lift if an effort to spend tens of millions of dollars on the school moves forward. The premium renovation option being considered (shown here) would cost about $60 million and include demolition of the north wing classrooms and gym, along with upgrades and a floor plan reconfiguration.

Prairie Grove Elementary School could get a major face-lift if an effort to spend tens of millions of dollars on the school moves forward.

The Prairie Grove School District 46 Board will discuss a master facility plan and potential building improvements during a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in the school library, 3225 Route 176. The school has about 700 students.

The planned Woodlore Estates project near Routes 31 and 176 is estimated to add 270 students to the district. CannonDesign created three design options that will be presented to the board: baseline, upgrade and premium.

The baseline option is projected to cost $36 million. It would include a centralized library, a new secure entrance behind where the school sits, co-located shared student services and a north wing light renovation, among other projects. Class sizes would increase.

The upgrade option would cost
$49 million and build off the baseline options. It would maintain class sizes, include personalized learning accommodations within classrooms and a gutting and renovation of north wing classrooms.

The premium option would cost about $60 million. It would include demolition of the north wing classrooms and gym, along with upgrades and a floor plan reconfiguration. All three options would remove the school’s mobile units and add air conditioning.

“The school is in need of some repairs, and before we just started embarking down the path of making some repairs, we decided to hire an engineering firm to not only evaluate the repairs that were needed but to map out a facility upgrade long-term,” board secretary Ryan Noonan said. “I think people have gotten a little ahead of themselves thinking we’re building a new school or whatever. ... It’s just an evaluation of a facility upgrade plan.”

Noonan hopes area residents attend Monday’s meeting. He said the school has a list of mandatory items in need of repair, including crumbling brick work, cracks in walls and air conditioning.

Superintendent John Bute will preside over the meeting.

“The district has been talking about making upgrades to their elementary building going back to the 1990s, when they built their junior high building,” Bute said.

However, he said, “No one expects the board to say, ‘Yes, we’re going to spend $30 million in the next year on our building.’ That’s not going to happen.”

Bute hopes any upgrades are done in an “incremental fashion.” He said the only way he could see the district raising taxes is if the board decides to ask the voters for a referendum.

“At this point in time, we have not had any discussions about doing that,” Bute said.

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