Safety, new high school and ongoing lawsuit covered in ES school board meeting

Friday, December 21, 2012

By Don Lee

At Tuesday night's school board meeting, Eureka Springs Elementary Principal Clare Lesieur reviewed the school's recent lockdown drill.

"I know it's at the forefront of everybody's thoughts right now," she said, referring to the horrendous shooting in Connecticut last Friday. "A couple of weeks ago we had our first lockdown drill of the year, and I must say afterward it gives you a definite sense of security, because within a matter of seconds you couldn't see or hear a child in the entire building."

Lesieur said police officers going through the building offered suggestions for improving their drills, including only one real note of concern, the fact some unattended classroom doors were unlocked. "So we implemented locked classes," she said. "If a teacher goes out, we lock classrooms from now on."

Student safety is always a concern, she added, but is more serious and urgent now.

In reference to the shootings, Lesieur asked that any concerns or suggestions be brought forward. "All our students went about business as usual yesterday," she said. "What makes us all feel the safest is the ongoing daily presence of police officers in our schools. Rarely two hours go by without them being over here."

She said the state requires the school to practice lockdown drills once a year but they do it twice. "We do want to practice, but we don't like to get the kids too upset," she said. "It is a balancing act between being a welcoming school and being safe."

High school update

Superintendent Curtis Turner brought the board and public up to date on the opening of the new high school.

"As you know, we're winding up everything now," he said. "We're just down to little things like getting the gym floors finished, bleachers and auditorium seating installed, etc. We've installed the lockers and all the security cameras."

Turner thanked the students who have volunteered helping haul everything down to the new building. "On Jan. 2 at 9 a.m. we will have a little ribbon cutting," he said. "Not a big fancy thing, but you are all invited. That night we'll hold open house for high school students and their parents and faculty. It may not be perfect, but we will have school there on Jan. 3."

Turner added work had begun widening Lake Lucerne Road to allow buses safe access to the new facility, and that he expected asphalting to begin this week.

Supreme Court decision appealed; Turner confident in outcome

In regard to the the lawsuit between the state and the school district over excess millage funds the state wants back, Turner said he felt fairly confident with the situation.

"We already won in the lower court in Pulaski County and with the State Supreme Court," he said. "I was notified yesterday afternoon that at the last minute the Attorney General's office had filed a motion to re-hear the case with the State Supreme Court, but we expected this to happen. So now we have until Dec. 26 to file a brief countering this, and we feel very comfortable with what we have to present. There is nothing new in their argument, and our attorney says it is unlikely the court will agree to re-hear a case they just ruled on a few weeks earlier."

He said the time frame, however, was up to the court. "That brings you up to speed," he finished. "We're working on it diligently and doing our best to put the facts out there when we think we're correct and will continue to press our argument for however long it takes. Hopefully a decision soon will lend us direction for what we can do as a district."

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