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Much Anticipated Opening of Little Rock Southwest Magnet High School Kicks Off with Virtual Fanfare


LRSWHS Grand Opening Pic

Click here to see virtual tour

With its vibrant purple and neon-green color scheme illuminating the impressive 400,000 square foot campus, the new Little Rock Southwest Magnet High School (LRSWHS), 9715 Mabelvale Pike, is a real standout, architecturally and academically.  To celebrate its opening this fall, the Little Rock District (LRSD) administration decided to continue with plans to host a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, delivered virtually, to officially introduce the school to the community.   LRSWHS not only makes history as the first high school to be built in the District in more than 50 years, but also because it opens during an unprecedented time in the state and nation’s history – in the midst of a pandemic.  All the more reason to celebrate this significant accomplishment according to Principal Marvin Burton, who shepherded the construction project from start to finish.  

“I believe I am as excited as the students about what LRSWHS means to them and to this community,” said Burton. “This school was deliberately designed to provide a stellar, state-of-the-art, 21st century learning environment to amplify the educational outcomes and extracurricular ambitions for students, and the aspirations of families in the southwest sector of Little Rock, Arkansas.”

Ribbon cutting ceremony

Much like the planning from conception to reality, the virtual grand opening/ribbon-cutting ceremony included students, parents, staff, and community members, in addition to video messages from Governor Asa Hutchinson and former President Bill Clinton, and a few in-person guests, so social distancing could be observed.  School leaders will explore opportunities to provide some open houses for the general public in the future. 

Approximately 1,800 plus students from McClellan and JA Fair, as well as students from Hall who actually live in the Southwest school zone, will call LRSWHS home this fall.  The massive campus will serve as a first class educational model and provide a much needed economic boost for the southwest corridor of the city.  Little Rock Southwest will be equipped to support a wide array of college and career readiness opportunities with the Ford Next Generation Learning Academy structure. 

Athletic amenities will provide not only a point of pride for the Gryphons (mythological creature that combines the head of an eagle and the body of a lion), but allow the campus to attract regional, state and even college competitions. Whether it is athletics or the arts, LRSWHS was built with the community in mind and will provide a great way to increase partnerships between the school and community.  Many of the spaces in the high-tech building will be ideal for stakeholders to host meetings and special events.

 “What an awesome time to be a part of the LRSD family,” said LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore. “Today is about celebration and thanks.  This high school exists because of the vision and support of the entire LRSD community, the leadership of Principal Burton, the dedication of teachers, and the partnership with our business community. This significant investment demonstrates to our students that we believe in them and truly want the best for them.  Equally significant, this shows that even in challenging times, we are keeping our promises to our community, and we remain grateful for its continued support.”

Former McClellan student and incoming senior Jordan Harris is a star football player who, along with his teammates, kept an eye on the developing new field. “We were all blown away and cannot wait to start school in August, and can’t wait to start football practice.  I don’t think I’ve ever said that I couldn’t wait for school to start!  But looking at this school and what it has to offer and knowing that there are great coaches, teachers and a great principal, I can’t wait and I believe every student is ready to learn!”

The $100M plus facility was built using a combination of resources - a portion of the remaining desegregation dollars that were earmarked for facilities and some funding from a Second Lien loan. The Little Rock School District is proud to serve as home to this welcome addition to its educational fleet, and what is sure to be an academic and financial boon for Southwest.  

“This beautiful facility is the result of the collaborative design process with the SWLR community and LRSD teachers, students and administration. I believe we have succeeded in creating a special place that will promote a spirit of pride, creativity and innovation for years to come,” said Sarah Bennings, Associate Principal with Polk Stanley Wilcox.

In the coming weeks, a time capsule will be buried near the flag pole in front of the building with items selected by the student body which represent the closure of the two high schools and the birth of LRSWHS.  A commemorative walkway will also be created for alumni from both schools to have their names engraved in the concrete leading to the Gryphon Arena. 

The District wishes to thank the design and construction teams for what it believes will be award-winning work:  Polk Stanley Wilcox and the construction teams from Nabholz, Doyne and Carson Construction. 

Congratulatory video messages were provided by Governor Asa Hutchinson and Former President Bill Clinton:


Clinton LR SW High School from Little Rock School District on Vimeo.


Hutchinson - Grand Opening for Little Rock Southwest HS from Little Rock School District on Vimeo.

Virtual Tour:

Facility Highlights:

Science labs with state-of-the-art technology
Student stations and the teacher demonstration desk can be raised or lowered to accommodate standing or seated lab activities
2-story media center
2-story cafeteria with multiple serving stations

Robotics, drafting, engineering and aviation programs/CTE wings with labs ranging from 1,400-2,000 square feet

Multiple collaboration stairs – flexible for group learning, complete with charging stations, projector and marker board

4,000 seat football stadium with jumbo Tron

2,400 seat basketball arena and competition-size court arena with NBA-style scoreboard

1,200 seat auditorium with orchestra pit

2 dance studios with black box theatre capabilities

CBI classrooms with fully-equipped kitchenettes

Student-operated bank and Gryphon merchandise store
Other Gryphon Fun Facts:

  • Around 600,000 bricks used at Academic building
  • 4.7 miles of curb and gutter around entire project
  • Football field is 57,600 sqft … we have just over 7 football fields of interior space
  • 3 laps around Academic building equals 1 mile or 2000 steps
  • As of today we have had 869 work days with an average of just over one hundred craft per day
  • Structural Steel …
  • 2007 tons in Academic building or 88 semi-truck loads
  • 3200 squares of metal decking
  • 783 joists
  • 680 doors for entire project
  • 244 toilets for entire project

And most importantly … all this ACCIDENT-FREE!