The North Little Rock school board pushed ahead July 19 on property acquisition, site layout and design work for new school construction.

It unanimously approved the $435,000 purchase of two properties for the construction of the new Amboy Elementary School.

Amboy also will serve as the design prototype for four new elementary schools.

In the first phase of its five-year, about $260 million building program, the district will construct new elementary schools at Lakewood, Boone Park, Amboy and Meadow Park. A fifth elementary at Glenview will go up in the second phase.

Voters in February approved a 7.4-mill increase in property taxes to help fund the overall construction program, which seeks to build new schools and additions while also reducing the number of campuses from 21 to 13.

Because the use of Amboy as a guide for the design work on the other four elementary schools will reduce the amount of work DLR Group has to do on them, the Overland Park, Kan.-based firm agreed to reduce its 6 percent commission fee to 4.5 percent for Boone Park, Glenview and Meadow Park schools and to 5.5 percent for Lakewood.

During a meeting break, North Little Rock School District Superintendent Ken Kirspel said the Lakewood site is smaller than the others and likely will require more design work, despite the use of the Amboy prototype.

The architectural fee is a percentage of total project expense for each building, and according to a memorandum to Kirspel from DLR, is expected to be about $2.27 million.

To further facilitate converting the Amboy prototype into a real school building, the board Thursday also approved the buying of a house and 4.86 acres of land at 5608 MacArthur and 0.56 acres at 137 Auburn.

DLR architects also made a presentation to the board Thursday about the proposed site layout of the new high school and stadium. The layout, or master plan, shows the basic arrangement of the campus, where buildings are on the site and how they are oriented

Board members gave their approval for the layout as presented, but DLR representatives will return to the board in August for further review of their design work.

Dorothy Williams, school board president, said after the meeting that the architects still are in talks with the city about parking and parking lots at what will be the new high school. Thursday’s presentation essentially involved showing the board, through drawings and three-dimensional graphics, what the architects and the board had discusses in late June, she said.

During a board retreat June 28, it became clear that board members liked one of the layout plans for the new North Little Rock high school better than others.

That proposal would swing the football field around so that it ran north and south and would give the school an extra 250 parking spaces just by changing the lot design.

The historic football stadium is being razed to construct classrooms, so the ninth- and 10th-graders now at North Little Rock High School’s East Campus can be at the original campus with the older students. The architects presented three different plans to accomplish that task. The other two are variations of moving the field to the current track, running field and jogging field now used by the public just north of the current football field and behind the police training offices.

But it was the plan with the football field running parallel to Main Street that caught board members’ attention. That was the recommendation from architects for DLR Group.

It allowed an extra 250 parking spaces on campus, as well as allowing the most efficient location of the planned classrooms.

In other business Thursday, the board unanimously approved a new student handbook that consolidates what was three separate handbooks into one. It also includes new policy changes that were approved at an earlier meeting and that primarily were made to better comply with state and federal standards.

The board also scheduled a special meeting for the discussion of district finances at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 9 in the administration board room at 2700 Poplar St.

"It’s to get a feel for where we are financially, but particular finances associated with the capital improvement plan," Kirspel said. "We have all these bills coming in for these contracts to sign, so we want to make sure we have all the money in line as we set our budget for next year."