Officials break ground on new school

Published on Tuesday, 8 July 2014 22:30 - Written by FAITH HARPER fharper@tylerpaper.com

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville ISD officials gathered on former Lon Morris land to break ground on a project that would give new life to the property and serve as the final step of updating the district’s facilities.

In November, the district passed a $22.785 million bond for the construction of a new campus to replace the roughly 60-year-old West Side Elementary campus and to create additional classroom space and a band hall at Nichols Intermediate School.

The new campus will sit on the former Lon Morris baseball and softball fields, said Superintendent Dr. Joe Wardell.

The property was purchased in early 2013 in an auction after Lon Morris College, the oldest junior college in the state, went bankrupt. Wardell said the school bought 50 acres of land, the gymnasium and the administration building out of its available fund balance for $1.53 million.

The project marks the third new elementary school for the district since 2011. A separate bond funded replacing East Side and Joe Wright Elementary. The three campuses also will have a similar design.

“The growth rate is about a percent, so as far as growth we really didn’t need any (new facilities), but it was because of the age and the shape of the buildings that we needed them,” Wardell said. “These were all pretty much replacement facilities.”

The core areas of West Side, including the cafeteria, library and gymnasium, will be built for 700 students, but the district is only adding classroom space to accommodate 500 students. The intention is to be able to add more classrooms as needed, Wardell said.

Nichols Intermediate is one of the district’s newer facilities, and the current bond will allow for needed classroom expansion. The campus was constructed in 2000, and its expansion groundbreaking is slated for 6:30 p.m. today.

Even with all the construction, Wardell said the district remains in good financial standing.

“We are still winning financial awards, and we still have more than our required amount in the bank,” he said.

The two projects will be constructed concurrently, and students are expected to move into the new West Side campus at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.