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Mountain Home High School’s remodel heads to voters in special August election

The fate of Mountain Home High School’s remodel is now in the hands of voters after the Mountain Home School District School Board voted to approve a proposed budget that included a millage increase to cover the cost of the proposed $47 million remodel.

If approved by voters, the 2.25 millage increase would cover the cost of the district’s three-year-long, two-phase remodeling plan to see a portion of the campus torn down and rebuilt into a two-story building.

The school board has set a special election date of Aug. 9, a few months after the district’s annual school board election on May 24.

“That roof is over 30 years old,” said Dr. Jake Long, superintendent for the Mountain Home School District. “While the need might not seem immediate, in the next three to five years, there’s going to be a lot of immediate needs there.”

Amendment No. 74 to the Arkansas Constitution provides that the Board of Directors shall submit to the voters the tax rate necessary to provide funds to meet the requirements of its budget for the next fiscal year at the annual school election or at such other time as may be provided by law.

A.C.A. § 6-14-102 and A.C.A. § 7-11- 205 authorize the board to hold a special election concerning the tax rate or debt issues provided that: (a) all constitutional and statutory requirements for a special school election are met; (b) the date of the special election is held on one of the dates authorized in A.C.A. § 7-11-205; and (c) the board files a document calling for the special election with the District’s domiciled County Clerk not less than seventy (70) days before the date of the special election.

Because of the need for further funding to remodel Mountain Home High School as laid out in the proposed budget, the school board agreed for a special election to be held on Aug. 9, 2022, to consider a tax rate sufficient to support its proposed budget, including the proposed issuance of bonds.

This special election will, subject to the voters’ approval, permit the District to proceed promptly with the sale and issuance of the proposed bonds in the principal amount of $47,000,000.

If approved, Phase One would see the front office, three labs, six classrooms, a teacher’s lounge, and an additional pair of classrooms torn down to make way for a new two-story 117,000 square foot building.

The new building would boast:

  •     2,800 feet of administrative space for staff members
  •     32 classrooms
  •     Two exterior classrooms
  •     New restrooms
  •     A 5,000 square foot library
  •     A brand-new 12,800 cafeteria
  •     A 3,900-foot kitchen

Under the district’s updated contract with Modus Studio, the architectural firm that drew up the remodeling plans for the high school, the total cost of Phase One would cost $20.9 million.

Phase two of the project would be smaller in scale, knocking down 84,000 square feet of the oldest section of the original 1966 building from the current cafeteria to the library.

That section would be replaced with a new two-story 125,200 square foot structure that would feature:

  •     An additional 3,200 feet of administrative space
  •     12 more classrooms
  •     Two new labs focusing on electronics and agriculture
  •     4,500 square feet of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps space
  •     13,000 square feet of multipurpose space
  •     A 6,200 square foot wrestling gymnasium
  •     A 4,200 dance studio
  •     Two full locker rooms for basketball and physical education
  •     62 new parking spaces

During Thursday evening’s school board meeting, concerns were raised about rising interest rates and the cost of construction materials. Still, the board agreed to move forward as there was no guarantee over lower rates or costs in the coming years.

Mountain Home High School has gone under several renovations throughout the years. In 1989, the school’s original 1966 buildings were covered with the high school’s current metal roof, enclosing several sections of the campus that had previously been outside with a metal structure.

Now, over 30 years since its enclosure, the oldest section of the school is starting to show its age. The 1966 section of the campus still features its original plumbing and wiring, forcing the district to do patchwork repairs to keep that section of campus functioning.

A walk through the campus halls reveals sections of the floors and walls that show signs of being jack-hammered out for maintenance before being filled back in again.

The original roof, accessible through the gymnasium, still rests inside the infrastructure while decaying and serves no purpose to the school. Members of Arkansas’s State Facilities Division toured the original structure last fall and said they “had never seen anything like it.”

In its current condition, Long said the district is unable to add AC units, fire sprinklers, or other infrastructural needs to the structure.

If the district were to go the renovation route over a full remodel via a construction project, Long said the costs would be unfeasible, requiring every portion of the campus to be brought up to newer code. Instead, the construction route would allow the district to obtain a new structure without working on the other campus sections.

At the end of the meeting, Long said the new construction would add enough space to MHHS that the district could potentially change the school into a 9-12 high school. This shift could potentially allow the district to convert one of its other school buildings into a pre-K school with the help of federal funding.

The school board will be receiving an update from Modus Studio, the architect studio assisting the district in its remodel, during next month’s school board meeting.

“It’s taken a long time for us to get here, but this is the next step,” Long said.

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