El Dorado School District Superintendent Jim Tucker announced plans to demolish the old high school campus, making way for a new Barton Junior High School during a facilities plan report Monday night.
According to a document on the district’s website, the building known as the El Dorado Education Complex, houses the district’s English-language learning, special education and gifted and talented departments. Stationed nearby are the American Red Cross and the South Arkansas Arboretum.
“It’s a beautiful piece of property, a very nice location. Unfortunately, the facilities there are deteriorated and need to be torn down, the majority of it does. So our plan is in the next six years to proceed on that (and) start tearing down a portion of that, which we will start by the end of the year,” Tucker said.
The superintendent said that BJH’s current campus, located near the abandoned Warner Brown Hospital, is “landlocked.”
“We have maintenance issues at that facility. Of course you know that it’s pretty aged. Some of it’s in good shape. The front part of it was built in 1949,” he said.
Board member Wayne Gibson acknowledged that the building has historical value. With the closing of Southside Elementary School in mind, Gibson said that demolishing the campuses may cause some reservations from residents who may have attended school there.
Southside Elementary School closed its doors in 2003, but wasn’t demolished for another 13 years. For many, “Southside was more than a school,” according to a previous News-Times report.
“I think we can come back with some valid arguments for that. The building is aged,” Tucker said. “It’s hard to keep technology updated in the facility. The classrooms are small compared to what they can be nowadays. It kind of limits the education that we provide in a building such as Barton and I think a new facility will provide a much better option.”
By 2020, Tucker said that he hopes to see a new maintenance, food service and bus yard. A 67-acre property located east of El Dorado, as well as others, are on the district’s radar for this project.
“Right now, we have our maintenance and bus shop on one side of town and we have our food service in another part of town. Both of those buildings are kind of landlocked (with) not a lot of room for growth and they’re starting to deteriorate beyond repair,” the superintendent said. “So in the next couple of years our plan is to build a new facility that’s all-in-one … I think that’s pretty doable.”
Among the “major projects” in the six-year master facilities plan are new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units on the Retta Brown Elementary campus.
“The HVAC system is starting to age a little bit and at some point in the next six years we’re going to have to replace the majority of that HVAC system,” Tucker said.
The district’s 2018 six-year Master Plan of Facilities was unanimously approved by the board. The El Dorado School Board’s next meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. Feb. 12 in the administrative office boardroom.
Brittany Williams may be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook @BWilliamsEDNT for updates on Union County school news.