In a few weeks, TASD middle school students will begin the transition into a brand-new state of the art facility located on Jefferson Ave.
Arkansas Middle School is a new facility for TASD middle school students, and it will be occupant-ready by early March of this year. Superintendent Becky Kesler said 7th and 8th grade students from North Heights Junior High School will be the first to transition and will spend the remainder of the year in the new facility. “We’re actually considered substantially complete next week, and so furniture will be moved in starting the week of February 1st, so we plan on starting to move students out there in March,” Kesler said.
The facility was created to help alleviate capacity issues in TASD elementary schools by moving middle school students out of the area and allowing the old North Heights building to be available for elementary students. “Trice is very crowded; Kilpatrick is very crowded and they’re just busting at the seams. If you’ve ever been in the car pick up runner line, people will tell you that you have to wait a considerable amount of time to pick up your child if you’re a car rider, so hopefully we’re going to alleviate some of the overcrowding at some of the elementary schools,” Kesler said.
Kesler said 6th grade students will join 7th and 8th grade students at the new facility next year, and the old North Heights building will begin operating as a K-5 elementary school. “North Heights next year will be an elementary school that will house a K-5 elementary, 6th graders will be over at the new facility, so what is currently our College Hill Middle School will also be an elementary school; so we’ll have Trice, Kilpatrick, North Heights will be an elementary, Fairview and then we’ll have a large elementary on the south side of town that will be in the College Hill Middle School building, so College Hill Elementary and Union Elementary will both be closed next year,” said Kesler.
According to Kesler, Arkansas Middle School will be able to house 1000 students in four separate wings of the facility. The new school will also feature two gyms, two band halls and state of the art science labs, science rooms, drama rooms, art labs and more. Enhanced safety features have also been added to the facility.
“When you walk in the front door, parents will only have access to the receptionists’ window because the doors are locked at that point,” Kesler said. Right now, in our schools, you have to be buzzed into the front door, but now there are several doors that you have to enter in before you ever have access to the school,” she added.
Kesler also explained new lockdown features that the separate wings provide. “All the hallways, they’re wings, so those hallways can be locked down separately with metal doors and at any given time, we can lock down an individual hallway. The front door all the way to the gym and cafeteria is just a straight shot so administrators can kind of stand in the middle and see all the wings at the same time, or they can lock them all down if they need to,” she said.
This is the first new facility that the Texarkana, Arkansas School District has had in decades. Kesler said they were able to finance the new school by using district funds, refinancing bonds and partnership money from the state department, and by using their magnet grant. The addition did not cost taxpayers anything, a detail Kesler is particularly proud of.
“I think the kids are going to love it. Like in the cafeteria in the serving line, it has razorbacks across in the middle of the serving line, it has running razorbacks across the front, we have a big hog that’s stained into the concrete of the foyer,” Kesler said. “It’s just a really cool state of the art facility for kids this age. I think they’re really going to get a feel that they’re razorbacks when they go out there.”
Kesler is excited for people to see the facility and is hoping to have an opening for the public toward the end of March when the weather gets a little warmer. She said they were planning to host a virtual opening once they get some of the students settled in the facility.