Ballot measure could fund new Valley Springs High School

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VALLEY SPRINGS, Ark. (KY3) - As Valley Springs superintendent Judy Green takes me through Albright Hall on her district’s 14-building campus, she tells the story of how a student fell through the floor just sitting down.

“Nobody was hurt,” she said. But stories like that underscore findings made by Arkansas officials – 90-year-old Albright Hall isn’t fit for class.

"A principal that worked at Valley Springs told me that building has been remodeled, and remodeled, and remodeled, and it's time for it to go," Green says.

Valley Springs voters have until Tuesday to vote on a property tax increase that would give the school district money to go towards a new high school building.

"Having one central modern facility would be just fantastic," English teacher Aimee Whitescarver said.

This is a big undertaking for the district and for voters. Taxes would increase $142.96 for property worth $100,000, and the district would get $6.955 million for several projects.

"I think when you break it down by month it's $11.83,” Green says. “I've heard people say that's going out to eat once that month."

Albright Hall is one of three buildings that inspectors took issue with three years ago. The top floor of the old gym building as well as the entire Old Main building were also essentially condemned.

Students were removed from the top floor of the gym immediately, but Albright Hall and the Old Main building scored 99.7 and 99.8, respectively, on a 100 point inspection scale.

On that scale, 100 is the worst possible score.

“My office was in Albright for nine years,” Green said. “Albright Hall is a very unique building, but the bottom line is it's not safe for kids.”

Work has been going on since those inspections to come up with the money for a building that can replace Albright and Old Main, as well as eliminate the need for modular, portable class rooms cluttering the campus.

"It kind of breaks my heart,” Whitescarver said. “[Old Main] is beautiful and I love it. It's not falling down; there's not holes in the floor that we're falling through."

The problems in that building are more infrastructure related, and its status as a historic landmark mean it won't be torn down. The other two buildings have more serious structural problems.

"Going up those stairs every day was just real creaky,” Valley Springs senior Ethan Garvin said of the old gym's top floor. “With Albright, the stairs are actually leaning. It's definitely a safety concern."

That tour with Superintendent Green revealed ceiling cracks, uneven floors, and steps that seem to be giving up after nearly a century. The basement level floods with enough regularity that they keep sandbags nearby.

There are other things on the Valley Springs to-do list. The elementary school needs a new roof. Superintendent Green would like to re-route traffic so that the elementary school kids don’t have to walk next to it to get to class. They also want to add a softball stadium to their campus – right now they play at the Harrison softball complex.

The district has a $2.2 million grant secure that will give them $1.96 million to go towards the new high school and $255,000 towards the elementary school roof. Funding the rest of the projects is up to the voters. Green says the top priority will be the high school.

If the voters approve, construction could start next fall.

"My siblings are coming up,” Garvin said. “I have one in fourth grade and another in kindergarten. I'm glad they're going to get better facilities. I think it's vital."