Students, parents and teachers ready to roll on new school year

184

The Eureka Springs School Board met Monday evening, and the “Open House” atmosphere spilled over into the meeting.

All three principals reported a good turnout for Open House events earlier in the day. All three schools also reported increased numbers of students registered to start the upcoming semester.

High School Principal David Gilmore said more than 100 families came to check class schedules and pick up supplies. He said the high school would begin the year with 206 students, an increase of 30 students. Those students will see some changes, including a major change in the bell schedule. Gilmore said the high school used different bell schedules each day of the week. The school would adopt a single bell schedule, except for special events like pep rallies.

The bell schedule will include an eight-minute break between first and second period, to allow students another opportunity for breakfast. Gilmore explained that some students could not get to school early enough for breakfast. He described a “grab and go” arrangement, with easily handled foods like breakfast burritos.

Another scheduling change will move advisory time to a period after lunch. The advisory time will go from three times a week to daily. “We’re adding more opportunities for students to get remediation with subjects,” Gilmore said. He also said students, staff, and administrators will all “drop everything and read” during the advisory time.

“We’re all excited and ready to go,” he said.

Middle School Principal Cindy Holt also described “a huge crowd” at Open House. She drew a laugh from the board when she noted that the parents seemed even more excited about the start of the school year than the students.

The Middle School starts the year with 25 more students than last year. The school has not had the major upheaval faced in the Elementary School, but Holt said some classrooms have been switched around, and some classrooms have received new flooring. The staff includes three new teachers.

Principal Clare Lesieur came to the meeting directly from the Elementary School Open House, the last of the three. She said the school “looks great” after a summer remodel project. Students and their parents saw new floors and other improvements, although Lesieur acknowledged, “It was down to the wire today to get it cleaned up for Open House.”

She also explained to the board how a grant from Solution Tree would help with professional development. Eureka Springs was one of 19 schools to receive the grant for the three-year program that will include 50 days of onsite coaching this year. Coaches come for two or three days at a time for intensive work in particular areas. Lesieur described “a top-notch professional development program geared especially for our school.”

Solution Tree’s first day on campus will be Sept. 16. Supt. Bryan Pruitt said Governor Asa Hutchinson will come to the High School at 8 a.m. that day to talk about opportunities in coding.

In other business:

  • The board approved the purchase of a bus more suitable for operating within the city. Pruitt explained that three buses now run toward Holiday Island, and each of them drops off students within Eureka Springs. Those buses are ill suited to the task, however, and a cabover bus will take over all routes within the city while the other buses will go directly to Holiday Island.

The bus will deliver students more safely within town, but Pruitt said it would have other uses, such as transporting band kids and their instruments downtown for parades. Because the bus is listed on a state bid list, the board was able to make the purchase without competitive bids.

  • The board extended a contract with the Eureka Spring Community Center for after-school care. Pruitt described the program as “very successful last year,” and provided an important service to parents. The program operated under budget, Pruitt noted, explaining that the school and the Community Center each has the option of canceling the contract each year.
  • The board authorized Pruitt to seek bids for a long-term contract with a construction management firm. Legacy Construction handled the remodeling work at the Elementary School this summer, and Pruitt praised Legacy’s ability to put subcontractors on the site at night or on weekends to get the job done in time. The superintendent said he would encourage hiring Legacy on a retainer basis for three years, but will first have to advertise for the contract. He hopes to have any applications by the next board meeting.

Pruitt said a construction management firm would cost the school some expense, but the company would work with the school and architects to stay within budgets and get the best value for money spent on construction.