Construction gets underway at Highland’s new primary school

The golden shovels have hit the ground, and construction is under way at Highland’s new primary school.

On Aug. 9, community and school leaders held a groundbreaking ceremony at the south end of Poplar Street, where it turns into Arkansas Road. The 23-acre site will be the home of the new Highland Primary School, which will house prekindergarten through second grade for approximately 600 students.

The $38 million project will house 40 classrooms with nearly 89,000 square feet, designed by FGM Architects and managed by Korte Construction.

“Highland Primary was the highest priority identified in the strategic plan due to the safety and security issues of housing 600 students under three different roofs and having students moving in and out and through the parking lot throughout the day,” said Superintendent Mike Sutton.

The other major project currently underway is the expansion of Highland Middle School. A nine-classroom wing is under construction, also designed by FGM and managed by Korte.

“The original (Highland Middle School) building was designed for two grade levels, but the district needed to move sixth grade into the building a few years ago to address overcrowding at Highland Elementary,” Sutton said.

The budget for the middle school addition is approximately $6.2 million for 14,000 square feet added to the building.

In addition, Highland Elementary will receive a new playground, redesigned cafeteria and renovated parking lot after the current Highland Primary is demolished. That phase of the project will cost approximately $3.15 million.

These projects were part of the school construction referendum approved by voters in June 2022 for $40 million, paired with $2 million in federal COVID funds, $1.5 million anticipated interest from investments, $500,000 in corporate personal property replacement tax revenue that the district had not anticipated and assorted other funding, including $1.8 million from the district reserves.

Other projects are underway that were not part of the construction referendum.

Highland High School’s stadium will get a new video board that will improve the experience at the stadium and allow for advertisement revenue, according to Sutton. That project is funded through a “very generous” donation from Apex Physical Therapy, Sutton said, and so the district will only need to pay for the installation.

In addition, last month Highland also announced a $5.75 million solar array project at all district buildings except Highland Primary. That project is not part of the referendum program, as it is anticipated the project will pay for itself through the energy savings anticipated over the next nine years.

“If we project out the full 30 years of energy savings, the district could benefit by nearly $7 million after payback (of the initial costs),” Sutton said.

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