Future School set to move forward with $5.8 million expansion

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,719 views 

The Future School of Fort Smith is ready to move ahead with a $5.8 building expansion project. The expansion will add 18,000 square feet to the existing school, which is currently 16,000 square feet.

The school’s board approved plans for the expansion project, which will more than double the school’s footprint, at its Jan. 21 meeting.

The addition will replace modular buildings the school uses and add enough classroom space that the school can open to students in ninth grade. The school now serves 10th through 12th grades. Enrollment was 225 Friday (Jan. 24), but the school can host 325 students, said Superintendent Boyd Logan.

“It would be a little tight, but we could make it work,” he said.

But in order to add ninth graders to the mix, the school needs to be able to accommodate more. The expansion will allow the school to accommodate 400 students in ninth through 12th grades, Logan said. Founded in 2016, Future School of Fort Smith is a tuition-free, public charter high school centered on a personalized approach to learning via student-designed internships, personalized learning plans, and an advisor for each student.

“At every information session we have, parents will ask if we have sixth-grade, seventh-grade, eighth grade,” said Allison Montiel, Future School principal. “They see the value of starting this earlier before students have sort themselves on a path. Project-based learning is what we do, and that really speaks to a lot of kids these days. … There has been some misinformation out there. We want parents to know we will be ready for them with a brand new building.”

Financing for the expansion will be through Civic Builders, which specializes in providing financing for charter schools, he said. The school’s building fund got a big bump with a $1 million donation Jan. 16 from Dwight Curry, a Fort Smith businessman and founder of Dream Alliance, a Fort Smith-based philanthropic group working to support innovation in community-centered services for local residents.

Logan said the school has some pledges for additional funding and is working on fundraising efforts. It is also reaching out to the community.

“We don’t get the property tax millage and that extra funding for all these facilities that is passed at the tax level, so we are really dependent on our supporters to help us accomplish this,” Logan said.

The school does receive state funding but does not receive any monies from local millage. In July 2017, the school secured a $600,000 matching grant from the Siloam Springs-based Windgate Foundation.

Along with adding a wing to the school and taking out the modular buildings, the expansion will reorient the front entrance and lobby from Seventh Street to F Street.

“We are going to be facing the city. That is very symbolic for us. We really open our doors to the city of Fort Smith,” Montiel said. “Facing downtown is sort of a way for us to open up our students to opportunities in our city and helping our city feel invited into us. We are building a free-flow collaborative environment.”

Designs for the addition have been completed. The architect and engineers are in the process of getting all the proper permits from the city, Logan said. Groundbreaking is expected to be in August with the project completed by mid-July 2021. The school is working with MAHG Architecture of Fort Smith and Hight Jackson Associates of Fayetteville. Construction contractor is Petree Construction of Fort Smith.

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