Groundbreaking marks new era for BHE
Ken McLemore, Hope Public Schools

HOPE – Modular classrooms which have served students for more than 40 years will soon be gone from the Beryl Henry Elementary School campus of the Hope Public School District. Groundbreaking ceremonies on a $4 million academic/activities expansion at the campus were held Wednesday.

Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mark Keith guided the ceremonies as Chamber President Steve Mullins offered remarks in behalf of the community.

Mullins recognized the importance of the project as a sign of transition within the community which would benefit business and industry in Hope.

Both Mullins and Hope Schools Superintendent Bobby Hart noted the community gave the HPSD its confidence by voting to refinance existing revenue bonds to build the new structure.

“You showed your support for us and we appreciate that,” Hart said.

BHE Principal Dr. Roy Turner said the new facilities will make the learning environment on the campus more positive for the students, who also recognized the confidence in them shown by the community.

Hope Public School Board members Joe Short, Willie Buck, Milly Green, and Denny Dickinson, along with Hart and Dr. Turner turned the first spades of dirt for the new project. They were later joined by Mullins, architect Steve Elliott, of Lewis Architects/Engineers of Little Rock, Mike Hickman, president of construction contractor The McDougal Group, of Texarkana, and Chandler Flenory and Daniella Vega, representatives of the BHE Student Leadership Council.

The construction project will involve removal of metal classroom buildings which have been in use for more than 40 years; remodeling of the interior of the present main building to provide expanded office space and relocation of library space; construction of some 25,000-square feet of new academic space; and construction of a 3,000-square foot multipurpose facility.

Construction is set to begin Thursday, and the project is expected to require the bulk of the ensuing school year. Classes will continue to be conducted on the campus during construction.

Built in 1967, the Beryl Henry campus was originally intended to serve grades 1-6, and currently houses classes for grades 5-6. Between the 1980s and 1990s the district closed older neighborhood campuses in various parts of Hope and the BHE campus absorbed those students.

Additional changes came with the construction of the William Jefferson Clinton Primary School, which shifted grades K-4 to one location, leaving grades 5-6 at BHE and grades 7-8 at Yerger Middle School.

The current project is financed through the issuance of some $6 million in revenue bonds, including the retirement of series 2009/2012 bonds, all of which the Hope School Board recently voted to refinance to reduce an already attractive 3.47 percent interest rate as bond market rates turn more favorable this summer, according to the district’s financial advisor, Stephen’s, Inc., of Little Rock.