Eureka Springs School Board refunds $9.9 million bond

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

By Haley Schichtl

The Eureka Springs School Board voted Monday night to refund a bond valued at $9,995,000, accepting the interest rate of 1.379688 percent from the lowest bidder, SAMCO.

Dan Lovelady of First Security Beardsley said the school will have to contribute $1,867,332.78 back to the bond issue, and the total proceeds will be $11,690,909.59.

In other business, Jim Nelson of Nelsons leather store on Spring Street announced he was giving a $25 gift certificate to all Eureka Springs staff members who sign up to receive one.

“We want to continue to give to the hard-working teachers and staff, for anyone who wants it,” Nelson said.

“The first potential value of this is about $2,600 for our staff, but if you wait a little bit longer into December it goes up 50 percent,” Superintendent Brian Pruitt said.

The board also approved a $1,000 holiday bonus for all school staff.

Also at the meeting, the principals gave updates on how each campus is doing.

Elementary school principal Clare Lesieur said the school has 150 on-site students and 31 virtual students.

“Our virtual numbers have been declining,” Lesieur said. “Some students were having difficulty at home, with engagement or technology issues. We feel parents have confidence in our safety measures in place here at school.”

She said first- and second-grade students have lost some literacy skills after schools closed early last spring, so the school is backtracking a bit to make up for what the students missed.

“We’re targeting what we call the ‘essentials of the essentials,’ conducting frequent assessments and providing interventions,” Lesieur said. “We’re launching a tutoring program for our virtual students, and we just recently hired three former staff members to help these students over Zoom or Google Meet.”

Middle school principal Cindy Holt said that similarly to the elementary school, the older grades had the smallest interim test score drop. She said they had a virtual A-B Honor Roll for the students and mailed out certificates to those students.

“Last week, student classes sat outside ... and were able to spread apart a little bit and take that mask off for just a minute,” Holt said.

High school principal David Gilmore said there are 149 on-site students and 39 virtual students.

“We started off around 60 [virtual students] and … some students just do better being in the classroom,” Gilmore said.

He said the interim test scores were higher than the state average in every category, and said the high school makes the testing into a competition between each grade level, with the winning class getting a pizza party.

“I was encouraged by what the kids did,” Gilmore said. “This time, the sophomores pulled that out, but the freshmen were right behind them.”

Pruitt said the school may begin having one day a week to let out on-site students early so that teachers have more time to work with or record lessons for virtual students.

“We still have over 100 students that are virtual, so we’re looking at the possibility of doing an early dismissal,” Pruitt said. “We’re going to be sending a survey out to our parents. We’re thinking of a Wednesday, letting out around 2 or 2:15 to give our staff time to work with those virtual kids.”

He said this must first be approved by the state department of education. Any on-site students who need or want to stay at school for the rest of the day can do so, Pruitt said, but buses will leave during the early dismissal time. Paraprofessionals would provide activities during that time for any students who elect to stay the rest of the day.

In other business, the school board approved three student transfers — two to Huntsville and one to Berryville.

The Eureka Springs School Board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14, in the Middle School Cafeteria.

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