LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Cost estimates released by the Fort Smith School District show that it would have to spend approximately $265,000 at minimum to switch out mascots for Southside High School.
The Fort Smith School Board voted last month to immediately eliminate the school’s fight song, “Dixie,” and to phase out the Rebel mascot by the start of the 2016-2017 school year. The move followed the shooting deaths of nine people inside their historic black church in South Carolina, reigniting a debate nationwide about the use of symbols of the Confederacy.
Switching uniforms and equipment for the athletic teams and coaches, and for cheerleaders, drill team and the band would cost more than $189,000. Removing the Rebel mascot from school facilities is estimated to cost more than $75,000.
But several items on the list of facility changes didn’t include costs, including a press box sign and Rebel wall paintings. School district spokeswoman Zena Featherston said those costs and others are still being researched.
The figures were released on Tuesday by Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen, who said he obtained the numbers from the district through an open records request, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1KQvi33 ) reported. He said taxpayers should know how much the district plans to spend in adopting a new mascot.
McCutchen is suing the School Board and district, claiming they violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act by failing to notify the public of a June 23 special meeting, when a committee first voted to recommend the School Board change the mascot and fight song.
Superintendent Benny Gooden has said there’s enough money in a couple of unspecified activity funds to cover the expenses. He was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Featherston, the spokeswoman, said authorization to spend money for the changes won’t be sought until after a mascot committee has been chosen. The high school principal, who’s heading the mascot committee, has said membership won’t be completed until next month.