Schools ‘steady as she goes’

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Eureka Springs School District continues to take the steps necessary to maintain a successful school year. Last month’s school board meeting was entirely online. Monday evening, the board returned to in-person meeting, although only three board members attended that way with three more connected by Zoom. The board members were presented with certificates of appreciation, with January being School Board Appreciation Month.

High School Principal David Gilmore said the high school has 188 students, 43 of them virtual, and those figures remain fairly steady. The second semester has just begun, and Gilmore said all seniors are on track to graduate. “All things considered, everything has gone pretty well,” he said. “Better than expected.” Gilmore said the basketball season has resumed after some games were cancelled because of Covid complications. Juniors will take the ACT test on Feb. 23 and Aspire testing will take place next week.

Middle School Principal Cindy Holt touched upon the new Wednesday schedule, with on-campus students dismissed a little early to give teachers additional time with virtual students. She said students responded well to the change. The school has 154 traditional students and 43 virtual, and Holt said more students are gradually returning to campus. “We’re delighted to have them in the building,” she said.

The elementary school has 149 students on campus and 31 virtual, and Principal Clare Lesieur said she is also seeing more students return to traditional learning. She delivered “a shout out to the staff for working so well as a team to ensure the safety of the students.” The students will celebrate day 100 of the school year on Feb. 1, and Lesieur said at the start of the fall semester, many doubted that the school year would last this long.

Outdoor classroom, soccer field close to being finished

The district must consider a facilities Master Plan each year. Maintenance Plant Manager Mike Dwyer reported on current projects and future plans. Paving is complete on the lower section of the high school parking lot. “The drainage is phenomenal,” Dwyer said, noting that part of the paving plan was to deal with some runoff issues. Other current projects include the outdoor classroom, which is almost complete. “It’s going to look nice and have the best view on campus,” Dwyer said. The district is coming closer to receiving the funds for a storm shelter. Because of the nature of the construction, Dwyer said the project should go quickly once the grant is received.

The soccer and track project is also nearing completion. The sprinklers and sod are in the infield, and a retaining wall is the only major part of the project still needed. Dwyer said the district will not have any major projects on the horizon. “We’ll turn to a lot of small things,” he said. Funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will help upgrade air-handling systems, “something we’ll have to review soon.”

Dwyer mentioned the erosion issues at the parking lot in front of the elementary school. He said that project would require a large retaining wall. “We’re not ready yet, but that would be a great change,” he said. Until then, he said further efforts to resurface that lot would be a waste of money. Dwyer concluded by saying that Covid issues have taken a major bite out of maintenance, but the department is starting to spend less time coping with the pandemic.

The board passed a preliminary budget for the 2022-23 school year.

There will be three school board positions up for election this year. The filing period covers the last week of February.

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