Firms hired to help Fort Smith School District with federal funding work

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 669 views 

The Fort Smith Public School’s Board of Education agreed during a Monday (Feb. 28) board meeting to hire architectural and engineering firms to move forward with master plan projects funded by American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds.

The school board voted to retain the services of MAHG Architecture Firm of Fort Smith, Lewis Architect Engineers of Little Rock and Risley Architecture of Fort Smith to design projects approved for the district’s Master Plan in October that qualify for ESSER funds.

Those projects include an expansion of the cafeteria at Kimmons Junior High ($1.5 million); a classroom addition at Ramsey Junior High ($1 million); a classroom addition at Morrison Elementary School ($5 million); the Virtual Academy project at the Peak Innovation Center ($1.2 million) and an upgrade to the freezer at the FSPS Service Center ($900,000).

Arkansas received $1.25 billion in ESSER funds, according to the Arkansas Department of Education website. Arkansas ESSER funds are used to support and provide interventions that address student learning loss, summer enrichment programs, and comprehensive after-school programs with 90% Arkansas’ funds sub-granted to school districts and community organizations, with the state set-aside amount totaling $125 million, the site said.

Those funds have a timetable of three years to be used, meaning districts that receive funds have a three-year window to complete projects using the funds. That three-year window started in July of 2021.

The resolution approved Monday will allow the district to award architectural services to the “firm/s and thereafter to proceed with the execution of an AIA (American Institute of Architects) contract with the most qualified firm/s in a form approved by …legal counsel.”

Shawn Shaffer, FSPS facilities supervisor, said the district would work with the firms to determine which projects would be the best fit with the firms in order for all the work to be completed on time.

“We are in a race against time, and I am for the flexibility this will give to ensure these projects are completed,” said board member Dalton Person.

The board also agreed to retain the engineering services of HSA Engineering/MAHG Architecture and Lewis Architect Engineers to complete an indoor air quality project at all the district’s schools that is also part of the district’s master plan. One team will be responsible for the projects in the primary schools and one would be responsible for the projects in the secondary schools, Shaffer said.