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WMSD breaks ground on new Bragg

WMSD breaks ground on new  Bragg


WMSD breaks ground on new Bragg

School, community officials get in on the big dig

West Memphis School District

Principal Terri McCann began the reverse countdown from five with the rest of her students, and with that the first shovels of dirt moved for the construction of the new $14 million Bragg Elementary.

Under picture-perfect powder-blue skies, it couldn't have been a better day for the event.

'The weather is beautiful today because I ordered it,' quipped West Memphis mayor Bill Johnson at the Tuesday morning event.

The oldest elementary school in West Memphis isn't getting a facelift.

It's getting a brand new building. And suffice it to say, it'll be a huge upgrade.

'Well, for one we won't have to have our teacher's lounge in the boiler room,' McCann said with a straight face.

The one-liners were many on Tuesday, and for good reason, from the dignitaries which included Johnson, superintendent Jon Collins, state senator Keith Ingram and state reps Deborah Ferguson and Milton Nicks.

Both Collins and Ladd Garey of the architectural firm of ETFC/Garey, are Bragg alums and, as you might expect, the occasion took on special meaning.

'It's one of the most exciting projects I've ever done,' said Garey. 'It kept me up at night quite a bit.

And working with Jon, who I went to high school with, it makes it that much more special.'

The one-level school will be over 72,000 square feet and the feature component may be the gymnasium, something the current 64- year-old building doesn't have.

'It's just going to be beautiful,' added McCann, who in her 11th year at the helm is only the fourth-ever principal for the school.

'Working with what we have now in the 11 years I've been here we've grown from 350 kids to over 500 now. I think the community deserves the new school.

There's a long history of great education here.'

Garey said the completion date for the project is set for July of 2017 in time for the administration and faculty to get moved in for the start of the fall semester that year.

The site of the new construction will be directly behind the current Bragg building in the space currently used for the school's recess and the practice field for the West Junior High football team.

The last time West Memphis built a new school from the ground up it took an historical tornado, which swept through the east end of town the night of December 14, 1987.

The most significant damage was the destruction of Maddux Elementary.

Before that, the last building project was in 1977 when Faulk Elementary was built.

'A lot of variables have to take place to get to this point when you're planning a building project,' said Collins. 'A lot of stars have to line up for school districts to do something like this.'

One of the biggest variable was the fiscal prowess of former superintendent Bill Kessinger, who had enough money in reserve to fund most of the Bragg project.

Collins said $6 million of the project will come from state funds, with the rest coming from in house.

'Living smack dab in the middle of the Mississippi River Delta, we have the next-to-lowest millage rate in the state, so our taxpayers are not overburdened, Collins added. 'Yet we have the fourth-highest starting teacher salary in the state behind Rogers, Springdale and Bentonville.'

By Billy Woods

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