School construction projects continue

Arturo Soriano, a construction worker with E&M Concrete Contractors, works Friday in a quagmire of mud to break down existing concrete forms at the JHS construction site so new concrete ones can be installed.

School construction projects continue

JONESBORO — The Jonesboro Public School District is continuing with the expansions to its facilities throughout the city.

The primary construction project is taking place at JHS High School.

Monroe Pointer, JPS director of facilities, said construction continues on the Jonesboro High School kitchen renovation and cafeteria. The Sun reported in January that JPS administrators accepted a $12,159,446.38 construction bid from Bailey Contractors for the project.

Pointer said the project is still in the middle of the first phase.

“Basically they are updating the kitchen to make it larger,” he said. “By the end of July or August it should be done.”

The second phase will be the three-story addition that will be added up front, Pointer said.

Stem Academy Principal Jeff Flanigan said it’s definitely been a different year.

“There are two construction projects going on simultaneously,” he said. “It’s very loud and I have had pictures knocked off the wall and broken.”

Flanigan said JHS teachers have been very creative teaching classes, noting they have taken students outside.

Although there have been some annoyances, there have also been some perks to classes being in session while the construction is ongoing. One benefit is students are seeing the construction on a daily basis.

“It’s been a fascinating thing to watch the work,” Flanigan said. “I am sure the construction workers feel like aquarium animals all the time. The teachers and staff walk by and stare at them.”

Flanigan said he’s also guilty of watching the construction.

“From my time as a kid, I played with toy excavators and dump trucks,” he said.

“I saw this guy with a bulldozer maneuvering into this small space,” he said. “These guys are so skilled.”

Flanigan said the students are also being inspired.

“I have had kids go by and say I think I’d like to work construction,” he added.

They are getting practically front row seats to see what these jobs are like, he said.

Flanigan said for those students who are inspired by the building process, NorthEast Arkansas Career and Technical Center has access to technology to train students in those careers.

“A few month ago, they had a simulator truck. Students could ... simulate driving an 18-wheeler. They could also learn how to drive an excavator,” he said.

Flanigan said he also tested it out.

“My job was to scoop up the dirt and dump it in the back of a dump truck,” he said, noting it was a difficult task. “I would either scoop up too much dirt or not enough. One time I even almost knocked the dump truck over.”

Flanigan said his experience made him appreciate the skill level of the construction workers who are building the new facility.

“These guys are doing this and they are doing it while sipping a Slurpee,” he said.

Flanigan said the experience is something current students will remember far into the future.

“It’s going to be amazing and beautiful. It will be the centerpiece of Jonesboro High School,” he said.

In addition to the ongoing construction at JHS, the district has improvements being made to other facilities as well.

Pointer said Pre-K North at 210 E. Johnson will soon be receiving a new portable building to be used as an indoor play space.

“That building has only five classrooms,” Pointer said. “We are trying to add more space for the kids to be able to play inside.”

Pre-K director Allison Clem said the location has no indoor play facilities.

“They are in the classrooms all day when it rains, and as 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds, they need additional space,” she said.

Clem said things like stepping stones and cocoon swings will be part of the play space. She said those multi-sensory activities will help with things like balance.

“It will be filled with things that are not in their normal classroom,” she said.

Pointer said Douglas MacArthur Junior High School will also have a new addition.

“We will build a new classroom, which is still in the first bidding phase,” he said, noting the project will go out to bid in early June.