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BENTONVILLE -- The School Board on Thursday discussed adding as much as 20,000 square feet onto West High School to provide a single space for the Ignite program.

Superintendent Debbie Jones presented the plan and reasons she was recommending West as Ignite's home over other possible sites.

Ignite classes

These are the career strands available for students to study in the Bentonville School District’s Ignite program.

  • Information technology
  • Digital design/photography
  • Health sciences
  • Digital video
  • Construction
  • Culinary arts
  • Education
  • Global business

Source: Bentonville School District

Jones said the addition is expected to cost $3.6 million. The project was built into a 10-year facility plan the School District devised in 2016.

Board members, after a lengthy discussion, seemed mostly in agreement with Jones' proposal, but didn't vote on the matter.

Travis Riggs, board president, asked whether the amount of space in the proposal would be sufficient to meet the program's growth.

"I want to build something big enough that we can grow into," Riggs said. "It just feels small to me."

Jones said she'd look into how much additional space the district could afford and bring a revised plan back to the board.

Ignite, now in its third year, immerses high school juniors and seniors in real experiences in a professional environment with support from a facilitating teacher and professional mentors. It's open to students from both Bentonville High School and West High School.

The district launched Ignite in 2015 with one information technology class of about 15 students. Since then it has expanded to involve 200 students in classes covering eight careers.

Teresa Hudson, Ignite's director, said each Ignite class meets in a different place. While two district buildings host a class, other classes meet at places such as the University of Arkansas Global Campus in Rogers and Northwest Arkansas Community College's Brightwater culinary facility.

The district pays a combined $26,000 per year for spaces it rents for Ignite. Other spaces are provided at no cost to the district, but classes in some cases can be displaced temporarily.

"We're guests in their spaces," Hudson said. "Just like any guests, sometimes you can end up wearing out your welcome."

She said having a facility specifically designed for Ignite would eliminate many of the challenges the classes now face, such as a lack of storage space for necessary equipment. The mentorship aspect of the program could grow because the facility would allow space for students to meet with mentors.

Transportation also is an issue. The district figured out a way to transport Ignite students who don't have a car to the various sites. If the program were at one of the high schools, it at least would eliminate transportation issues for students there, officials said.

West High School was designed with room for expansion in mind. The Ignite space would be added to the north side of the school's building.

West High School's location in Centerton also makes it easily accessible to students from the Decatur, Gentry and Gravette school districts who are interested in joining the Ignite program, Jones said.

Putting Ignite at Bentonville High School would require building a standalone facility that would cost at least $8.5 million, Jones said. Besides, she added, Bentonville High School is big enough as it is.

Other sites considered for the Ignite facility include the Tennie Russell preschool building, the student services building on Southeast 14th Street, and the Helen Walton Children's Center on Northeast Wildcat Way, a district-owned building. The Children's Center is planning to relocate to a facility under construction on Southeast J Street.

NW News on 01/19/2018

Print Headline: West High School eyed for Ignite building

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