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How inflation is impacting the construction of Arkansas schools

Many schools across Arkansas will soon get a makeover thanks to a $92 million fund that the state is distributing across 45 school districts.

JACKSONVILLE, Arkansas — Several schools across Arkansas will soon get a makeover thanks to funds from the state.

But like any form of construction, there's some road blocks in the way.

The state is giving nearly $92 million to 58 different building projects across 45 Arkansas school districts. 

That's a large sum but Tim Cain, Director of the State Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation, said inflation may make things a little tricky.

"As you know, it's a national problem that we're facing," he said.

Like most national problems, this one is trickling down and it's impacting where Arkansas students learn.

"It means different things for different districts, but it does present a big challenge for some districts in meeting their budget," Cain said.

He is on the commission that approved the millions of dollars for school building projects on Thursday, April 28.

According to Cain, the money can be used for anything-- from brand new buildings, to roofing, to even AC and security systems.

"It's going to address both growth needs and warm, safe and dry needs," he said.

Those needs are coming at a higher price this year though, as construction costs continue to rise. 

Cain said that is why he is working with districts constantly on options they have to still complete their upgrades.

"It could be reducing the project scope. It could be more time flexibility as an option that we have for them, that we can do," he said.

For Jacksonville Superintendent Jeremy Owoh, he's glad the state is addressing the higher costs.

His district is getting money to replace two of their elementary schools, which won't be cheap.

"We've committed to the new buildings, we're going to just make sure that we budget appropriately and make sure that we continue to move forward," he said.

Moving forward means brand new facilities for Owoh's staff and students, but it does much more than just looking pretty on the outside.

"We've seen it from our elementary, middle, and high school scholars. The different mindset, different behavior, they take ownership, they take pride," he said.

While inflation isn't going to make the construction easy, it doesn't take away from the district's gratefulness.

"The community of Jacksonville deserves to have brand new buildings and so we're happy," Owoh said.

Jacksonville plans to seek additional funding for one of the elementary schools' next year. 

Other districts receiving money for school buildings include Watson Chapel and Benton.

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