Eleven acres needed to construct an elementary school north of Interstate 40 has been donated to the Van Buren School District, according to Superintendent Dr. Harold Jeffcoat.

William D. and Sharlene Gaither of Richardson, Texas, recently made the donation of land on Northridge Road adjacent to Legacy Valley, Jeffcoat told the board of education at a called meeting Tuesday night. The 11 acres is valued at $812,000.

Board members then unanimously voted to purchase an additional 10 acres at a cost of $490,000 from North Park Baptist Church.

VBSD is working with Mason Shirey of Jimmy Bell Real Estate Co. to have the contract ready for approval at the June 13 board meeting, Jeffcoat said.

“I am very pleased to announce the nice donation from the Gaithers,” Jeffcoat said. “Not many schools can boast about being built on a beautiful hillside.”

In April, the Arkansas Facilities Division announced it had approved $5.3 million in state funding to help construct the VBSD’s seventh elementary school. Van Buren has two schools north of the interstate - Northridge Middle School and Rena Elementary School. The other elementary schools are Central, City Heights, King, Parkview and Tate.

The district has 18 months to enter into a contract for construction and 48 months to complete the school, which is estimated to cost about $12 million.

State law requires a school district to have 10 acres per 100 students, plus one acre for every 100 additional students.

Jeffcoat pointed out the 21 acres will give the new school adequate parking, a nice playground and stacking lanes to avoid parking problems.

The board also approved bonuses for school district employees - a $750 bonus for certified employees and a $500 bonus for classified employees.

The 7-0 vote came after Jeffcoat noted the district had a very strong year fiscally with a year-ending surplus projected at $5.4 million, including more than $12 million in the building fund. A $4.7 million surplus had been projectED.

“District employees have done a good job in empowering efficiency,” Jeffcoat said. “This is a nice way to step into a new salary schedule as opposed to the current not-best salary schedule.”

The total cost of the bonuses will be $605,208.75, Jeffcoat said.

Following an executive session, the board voted to approve the transfer of Mike Allen to director of transportation and custodian services for the district from school resource officer at Tate Elementary School.

The transfer will be effective July 1.