SINGERS: Steve Felton, ICC choir director, leads a group in the choir room in the new arts complex at Brockwell. Felton teaches over 80 students the fifth and sixth grade choir, the high school choir and a chamber choir that participates in competitions. Photo/Harris
TORN DOWN: Sgt. Jeff Sanders of the Arkansas State Department of Corrections at Calico Rock helps supervise inmates as they tear down the old fifth and sixth grade building on the Violet Hill campus. The inmates spent approximately 10 weeks on the demolition, saving the school district between $75,000 and $100,000 in costs. Photo/Harris
Izard County Consolidated fifth and sixth grade students started the 2006-07 school year in new classrooms at a new location.
A $2 million project added classrooms and a fine arts complex to the Brockwell campus to form a middle school for grades five through eight. Grades five and six had been housed at the Violet Hill campus.
"It was time to do something to make sure we would continue to meet all the state's facility requirements," said Izard County Schools Superintendent Fred Walker. "The building that housed the 5th and 6th grade classrooms was built in 1951 and was ready to be replaced."
The new project added 7,000 square feet to a wing at the high school, creating the classrooms for the middle school.
"The middle school addition was designed to limit contact between the older and younger students," said Monty McCurley, Izard County Middle School principal. "The two schools share the cafeteria but are on separate schedules. Whenever it is necessary for a class to go into the high school area they are always escorted by a teacher."
The fine arts complex is shared by grades 5 through 12. The 18,000-square-foot facility houses a sound-proof band room, choir room, practice gym with a large stage, bathrooms, walk-through concession area, boys and girls locker rooms with access to the stage and an art room with a large storage area.
"We are very proud of the fine arts complex," McCurley said. "Our band now has a sound proof room to practice in, the choir room has a tiered area, and the stage allows us to offer a drama class to our students for the first time in 20 years."
Physical education classes are held in the practice gym six hours a day. With the new gym addition the Cougar boys' and girls' basketball teams now have two locations to practice -- the old and the new gym -- preventing conflicts in scheduling.
"Basketball games will continue to be held in the old Cougar gym," McCurley said. "Coach Harmen likes the non-air conditioned gym. He says our teams are used to playing in the uncooled air which gives ICC an even 'hotter' home court advantage."
The new gym will be used for high school graduation ceremonies.
"There is enough room on the stage to seat the graduating seniors, and with chairs and bleachers we can seat 450 to 500 people comfortably," McCurley said. "The only thing we need to complete the gym are bleachers and they are scheduled to arrive next week."
There is a separate outside entrance off the front parking area that visitors will use when activities are held in the gym.
An outside fenced playground for the fifth and sixth grades is under construction and will be completed within the next few weeks.
The ICC Brockwell campus also has a baseball/softball complex that has seen some finishing touches this year.
"We have one of the most impressive on-campus sports complexes around," McCurley said. "The construction was started in the late 1980s, and 1997-98 was the first year we were able to play on it. The complex has separate regulation fenced ballfields -- one for baseball and one for softball. We now have infield grass, a new concession stand and we recently completed press boxes for both fields that have a fax, copier, phone lines and PA systems."
Superintendent Fred Walker said the complex wouldn't be there except for a lot of volunteer efforts.
"We had a lot of people and companies that donated their time to help us build the sports complex," Walker said. "Max Williams and Russell Sherrell, our maintenance personnel, gave a lot of their time to it, as did a lot of other people. We have about $100,000 in the complex instead of the $400,000 it would have cost if we hadn't had the volunteer help. We're pretty proud of it."
The sports complex has already served as the location for two state AA baseball tournaments, three class AA softball tournaments and several regional tournaments.
The Violet Hill campus, which houses preschool through 4th grade, has also seen changes this year.
A new 10,500-square-foot building has been completed on the Violet Hill campus. The building houses the art and music rooms, the gifted and talented class, a teachers' workroom, counseling offices, library and two 4th grade classrooms. The old 5th and 6th grade building has been torn down and the school driveway and parking area have been repaved.
Fred Walker said the elementary school's bathrooms had all been renovated in 2000, a new roof was completed in 2003 and the multi-purpose room has been redesigned as a cafetorium.
"The elementary campus is in pretty good shape," Fred Walker said. "The old gym still needs to be renovated but everything else is pretty good."
Inmates from the Arkansas Department of Correction at Calico Rock, maintenance team one, spent the last month and a half tearing down the old ICC 5th and 6th grade building at the Violet Hill campus.
Lt. Paul Killian, supervisor of the team, said this was one of the largest projects they have taken on.
"It was a little tricky taking it down, but we took our time and didn't have any major injuries," he said.
Killian said inmates are carefully screened before they are placed on a maintenance team and allowed to work on projects in the area. A team consists of around 30 inmates.
"We had 20-25 inmates that worked tearing down the building," he said. "We began work on July 3, worked five days a week and completed the project Aug. 25."
Crews from the corrections unit are used around the area on projects such as roadway cleanup and parks maintenance. Three corrections officers guard and supervise the crew from horseback and are with the crew at all times. Killian was assisted by Sgt. Jeff Sanders and Sgt. Mike Barger.
There is no charge to the Izard County School District for the inmates' work.
"If we had paid 25 to 30 people to do this job, the expense would have been between $75,000 and $100,000," said Fred Walker. "The corrections unit has done work for the school district in the past during summer and spring breaks. We've always been real pleased with the result and have never had any trouble."
Walker said the district has no immediate plans for the area where the building was torn down.
"We may eventually use it as a parking lot, but right now we have no plans for it," Walker said. "In the future, we will look at building a maintenance shop and a new bus garage, but I'm not sure which campus they will be built on.
"Right now, everything looks real good for both campuses."