Local schools see all kinds of growth in 2019
By Samantha Jones and Haley Schichtl
Eureka Springs is a strong community dedicated to volunteerism, and that's especially clear when you look at the various schools in town. In 2019, Eureka Springs schools experienced heartbreak, growth and everything in between.
Eureka Springs School District
Eureka Springs School District started the year with several exciting developments, including work on the outdoor classroom, renovations to the elementary school and a new reading curriculum. The school board approved the master facilities plan on Jan. 14 and created a third fifth grade homeroom because of rising enrollment.
On Feb. 11, the school board approved the budget for the 2020-21 school year with Superintendent Bryan Pruitt saying the millage rate would remain at 36.13 mills. Tragedy struck later that month on Feb. 22, when two Eureka Springs students were killed in a car accident. High school principal David Gilmore remembered sophomore Kyle Daugherty and former student George "Buddy" Milawski as talented and likable kids.
The school held a candlelight vigil to honor the students on Feb. 27, where the high school gym filled with students, teachers and other members of the community. Student Grayson Ertel said Daugherty always had a smile on his face. Milawski would always greet you with a hug, Ertel said.
"They're always in our hearts," Ertel said.
The school soldiered on, with the school board extending Pruitt's contract by one year on March 18. The board approved advertising bids for the elementary school remodel on April 8. On June 10, the board approved Legacy Construction's bid to do the remodeling work, continuing the work through the beginning of the new school year in August. Also in August, the board agreed to hire a construction manager for various building projects including the elementary school remodel, leveling the track and eventually constructing a FEMA building.
In November, the school board voted to move forward with phase two of the elementary school renovation. Pruitt said the school budgeted a total of $800,000 for the project. By the end of the year, construction on the outdoor classroom was nearing completion and the high school FFA program announced a new grant allowing the students to study weather and utilize the outdoor classroom.
Clear Spring School
Clear Spring School stayed true to its "hands-on and hearts-engaged" motto in 2019, raising money for the school's scholarship program at the annual Clear Spring Fling on March 9. This year's theme was "Taste of the World" and featured musical entertainment by teacher Sage.
On May 15, Clear Spring students planted a sugar maple tree as part of Eureka Springs' 37th annual Arbor Day Celebration. Parks director Justin Huss spoke at the ceremony, saying the new Grand Avenue Greenway project allows Clear Spring students more convenient foot travel to Harmon Park. The project added 10 additional trees in and around the trail, Huss said, which is adjacent to Clear Spring School.
Clear Spring launched its capital campaign for the Wisdom of the Hands Woodshop Program on June 7, housed in the Phyllis Poe Hands-on Learning Center. Craftsman and teacher Doug Stowe leads the woodshop program and said the capital campaign would help raise money for the renovation of the new space, which includes a larger woodshop.
Former Clear Spring teacher Jessica FitzPatrick returned to the school in August as the new head of school. FitzPatrick said she was excited to help teachers understand how to combine theory and practice.
"I invite families to come by and visit and see if the school is the right fit for their kids," she said. "We work with everyone and anyone that fits our mission and philosophy."
With the help of a grant from the Carroll County Community Foundation, Clear Spring began improving its technology infrastructure at the end of the year. FitzPatrick said in November that the school has 20 Chromebooks and now everyone can log on at the same time without any trouble.
Moving toward 2020, FitzPatrick said, she's excited to see how the new learning center comes together.
Academy of Excellence
Academy of Excellence is a small private school, but that doesn't make it any less mighty. In 2019, the school came together to pack 10,000 meals to send to Haiti as part of the Feed the Need mission. Pastor Chad Hill said the event is a fundraising effort for the school, which is located at Faith Christian Family Church on Huntsville Road.
Hill said the school grew its STEM program in 2019 and will focus on that in 2020.
"We've added to our curriculum some STEM classes," Hill said, "and our art department has been growing. We've been working on teacher workforce development –– just continuing to do the same thing, but better."