LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The tough decision to close 3 schools in Little Rock has been made. Now comes the decision over what to do with the buildings.
There are six ideas turned into the Little Rock School District, calling for a mix of commercial and non-commercial plans.
They reflect ideas of how best to use the properties at Franklin Elementary and Woodruff Early Childhood Center if and when they are indeed closed to students.
“I like the location of Franklin Elementary. It's near U-A-L-R campus,” said Kesha Cobb, C.E.O. for the Sustainability Project after submitting a plan to tackle food deserts and nutrition problems. “It isn't far from a multi-family dwelling unit, Madison Heights on 12th street.”
Commercial developers have their eyes on Woodruff on West 7th Street.
Moses Tucker Real Estate plans 23 one to three bedroom apartments for the 106-year-old building. They would create a community room and build a pool and park space for tenants on the property. They would also pay the district $700,000.
A Miami-based company, Woodruff Historic Properties, plans to build “upscale” multi-family apartments alongside a child-care facility. They offer $250,000 in their plan.
Three non-profit groups are eyeing Franklin, including Cobb’s group. It calls for a “central hub for community involvement” focusing on health, environment and economy.
“I feel that an urban agricultural hub would be very essential to the community,” Cobb said. “It’s In the spirit of health and wellness, especially combating obesity within the state.”
Community Health Centers of Arkansas (CHCA) has a similar proposal with a focus more on public health access and education.
“We wish to maintain the significance and rich history of the school,” said LaShannon Spencer, CEO of CHCA in a statement. “If given the opportunity to re-purpose Franklin Elementary, the Health Center will offer a multi-faceted approach that will include partnerships with organizations in healthcare, education, job opportunities, and vocational training; a neighborhood invested in the health and wellness of its residents.”
The group behind the Watershed Project would like to relocate their “social hospital” servicing the city’s homeless. They plan to use old classrooms to expand computer training and particularly would like to use Franklin’s cafeteria. Their current location doesn’t have a functioning kitchen.
The final proposal comes from the leader of the “Save Our Schools” organization that has fought the closings since they were announced.
“They are school buildings. Why not allow them to continue to be what they are for the neighborhoods and the communities,” said Dr. Anika T. Whitfield, whose proposal asks LRSD to return more classes and students back to Franklin and Woodruff.
“Here we are having persons from within and outside our state who want to come in with big dollar, big capital ideas,” Dr. Whitfield said. “But they have no concern for the people that live in the neighborhood and the community.”
No one associated with charter schools submitted proposals. A law passed the state legislature that would give charter organizations a first crack at any empty school buildings once it goes into effect later this year.
The district scheduled public meetings for April 11 and 12, where the presenters can sell their proposals and the public give feedback.
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