As part of an ambitious $265 million plan to completely remake the North Little Rock School District, the first new school is now open. A ceremony was held Tuesday to dedicate the rebuilt Meadow Park Elementary, with three other schools to open in December.
Students patiently waited through a series of speakers, before the ribbon-cutting and students and faculty shouting in unison "let's go to school." It's the first new school to open in the district in 44 years.
"The plan was for us to take our schools from 21 to 13 and this is the first school that we’ve opened. It’s a prototype and we have four other schools that will be built just like this," said North Little Rock Superintendent Kelly Rodgers.
"It was based around the needs that our community thought that education for our students needed to go into the future. And that’s with the technology, with the classrooms, with the learning centers, with those things that we know help enhance education."
The project is funded through a mix of state funds and a 7.4 mill tax increase approved by North Little Rock voters in 2012. Most of the schools are either being rebuilt or extensively renovated.
"The project itself has been very taxing for us. We actually have 11 projects under construction right now and that has taken the majority of my time," Rodgers said.
Meadow Park also now features an extensive, high tech security system, which he says makes it the most secure school in the district. Eventually all schools will have similar systems.
Rodgers demonstrated how visitors must first go through a secured vestibule and be identified through a camera before being let into the office and then into the school. An extensive surveillance camera system also monitors key areas.
The door to each classroom can also be remotely controlled in an emergency.
"The access control system has a lockdown feature so it can be locked down from the office," said Zack Wirges with Genesis Datacom, which installed the system.
"Each teacher is also given the ability to put the school in an emergency state. We typically don’t discuss how they do that, but every teacher does have that ability. So if they see something and decide the school in lockdown, they have the ability to access that fuction."