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PCSSD school groundbreaking sparks controversy

The Pulaski County Special School District's groundbreaking for a new high school in Maumelle stirs up controversy. Parents in Jacksonville want the district to put the building project on hold until it can prove the money is there.
The Pulaski County Special School District's groundbreaking for a new high school in Maumelle stirs up controversy. Parents in Jacksonville want the district to put the building project on hold until it can prove the money is there.

The parents tell FOX16 they believe building new schools will saddle them with so much debt they won't be able to move forward with plans to form their own district.

After four years of planning and design the Pulaski County Special School District breaks ground on a new state of the art high school in Maumelle. "It's truly a great day that we are here," said Mike Watson, the mayor of Maumelle.

This school replaces the old Oakgrove High School. "We desperately need that school here. We could keep a lot of students we lost to other districts," says Cathy Staton, a parent in Maumelle.

But Daniel Gray with the Jacksonville World Class Education Foundation is worried about the price tag. Initially district officials said building schools in Maumelle and Sherwood would cost $80 million but now the Maumelle school is projected to cost that alone. "We want to make sure they're being fiscally responsible, [to] prove to us that you can pay for this debt issue down the road," says Gray.

A new school being built in Maumelle is a sign of progress for the PCSSD, but in Jacksonville they believe a new school means more for debt for them as they try to break away and form their own school district. "Our tax base makes up 15% of the overall district. Any debt that's out there, we would at least take our portion of the debt," says Gray.

Tim Clark with PCSSD says, "I’m sure they're concerned about that but we as a board will look at that and consider all of that when it come to negotiating the exit."

Clark says the district is cutting costs but Jacksonville parents want more. At a special meeting with the board Tuesday they will ask the board to stop building the school if the district can't pay for it without Jacksonville's help.

Jacksonville parents will meet with the Pulaski County Special School District board at 6:30pm at the administration building. At 8:00 Maumelle parents will meet with the board to plead their case for keeping the project on schedule.
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