Forum to address questions about new Walker High School
by James Phillips
Dec 08, 2012 | 6935 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Area residents will be able to view plans and ask questions concerning a possible new Walker High School during a forum scheduled for Monday afternoon at Jasper City Hall.

The question and answer forum is a joint effort between the Jasper Board of Education and the Jasper City Council. Architect renderings for the proposed new high school will be available for public viewing at 3:30 p.m. inside the council’s meeting chambers on the second floor of city hall. Superintendent Robert Sparkman and representatives from Lathan and Associates will be available at that time to answer questions about the plans for the school.

“This is a very informal meeting,” Sparkman said. “We’ll have the plans and be there for three hours to answer any questions that people may have. We don’t expect folks to be there the entire time. We tried to schedule it to give a time frame that could allow people to come and go.”

Sparkman told members of the Jasper City Council at a November work session the 285,000-square foot building would house academic classrooms, state-of-the-art science labs, a competition gym, a practice gym and a 1,500-seat performing arts center.

The new school facility, which would be located on Viking Drive across the street from Eastside Baptist Church, would include the main building as well as practice fields (one for football and one for band), tennis courts, two baseball fields, two soccer fields and a new football stadium. The main building is estimated to cost $53 million and the athletic complex should cost around $6 million.

The Jasper BOE has requested the city raise its sales tax by one cent to pay for the cost of the school, which is estimated at a little more than $61 million.

Jasper resident Bill Cleghorn addressed council members Tuesday concerning the possible raise in sales tax.

“I understand the city is thinking about earmarking a 1-cent sales tax for the new school. I don’t like earmarking when you’re talking about $100 million by the time everything is done,” Cleghorn said.

Mayor Sonny Posey addressed Cleghorn’s concerns, saying, “I can’t tell you where this thing will end up. We are still in the ‘hearing all the details’ process. I can assure you the city will be heavily involved in building a new school, and I should probably limit my comments to that.

“In my opinion, based on my knowledge of your thoughts, I think you’ll appreciate what ultimately occurs,” Posey added.

No firm timetable has been set on the school’s construction, because funding has not been established. Sparkman said he expects the project will take two to three years once funding is approved.

“There’s really no way to say exactly how long it will take,” he said. “There is a lot of grading and work that will have to be done on the site first. Weather will play a big role in how quickly the entire project can be completed.”