Eureka Springs schools adjust to new normal

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

By Haley Schichtl

Eureka Springs students and teachers are adjusting well to the ‘new normal,’ principals told the Eureka Springs School Board at its regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 14.

“I think things are getting a little bit easier, we’re getting our routine down, but it requires a lot of extra planning for the teachers,” elementary principal Clare Lesieur said. “They deserve pats on the back and appreciation and encouragement right now.”

She said the students have been doing a good job of following the new procedures.

“Very few reminders are needed to keep their masks on,” Lesieur said. “They’re washing their hands, using hand sanitizer … making sure they maintain their six-feet distance.”

Lesieur also mentioned that the elementary school just had an EAST lab installed, and now the middle school is the only campus without one.

Middle school principal Cindy Holt said the teachers are working hard to get through the new learning curve and adjust to using virtual platforms to teach students at home while still providing regular classes to students on site.

“Our teachers have been working double time to provide excellent lessons,” Holt said. “Overall, we’re starting to get to a point where we feel more confident and happy about the direction we’re going.”

High school principal David Gilmore said there are now about 10 more students on-site than at the beginning of the school year.

“It’s kind of getting back to that normal feel,” Gilmore said. “We’re utilizing larger spaces for some of the larger classes, like the auditorium … to spread kids out.”

Each school in the district has around 30 percent of students doing online school, but the principals said there’s been some movement from one option to the other. Gilmore said if a student has even just one symptom, they can stay home and do the virtual schooling until they feel better and still be counted present.

“I think all the extra precautions we have taken have paid off for us,” Holt said.

Lesieur said the district’s point of contact, nurse Meghan Wolfinbarger, has done a very good job of making sure students on-site are healthy, staying on top of it and keeping calm.

Also at the meeting, the board agreed to purchase a new school bus.

“If we purchase this bus, we could be the only district in Arkansas that has 100 percent air-conditioned buses on the routes,” Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said. “Since COVID, the prices of buses went up … so the price of the new bus is $101,000. But we did budget it and we have money for the bus.”

Pruitt said Eureka Springs likes to have buses that are comfortable, safe and dependable for transporting students on their daily routes.

In other business, the school board approved the Every Student Succeeds Act plan, the Minority Teacher and Administrator Recruitment plan and the budget for the 2020-2021 school year.

The board also agreed to refund a bond.

“We’ve been paying 3.46 percent interest on this bond,” Pruitt said. “They’re thinking our interest rate will be 1.86 percent, so that’s a savings of 2.2 million over the lifetime of that bond.”

The board then approved the transfers of seven students into the district and three students out of the district, the hire of a new food service worker and the resignation of a bus driver.

The Eureka Springs School Board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12 in the middle school cafeteria.

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