ES school board approves 2021-2022 calendar

Thursday, March 11, 2021
Eureka Springs Superintendent Bryan Pruitt (left) presents Eureka Springs School Board President Chris McClung with a Master Board Member plaque for earning 50 hours of school board training from the Arkansas School Board Association.
Submitted photo

The Eureka Springs School Board on Monday approved the calendar for the 2021-2022 school year at its regular meeting.

Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said the 2021-2022 school year is slated to begin on Aug. 16 and end on May 27. That’s 178 student days, Pruitt said, including five days for weather emergencies. Pruitt said the district missed 14 days of school because of inclement weather in the 2020-2021 school year, saying the district is prepared to request more snow days from the state if it becomes necessary next year.

Pruitt said the board discussed the future of virtual instruction at the meeting but made no decisions on the matter. The board is considering removing the option of virtual instruction, Pruitt said, after looking over the data and sending out surveys to teachers and parents.

“It looks like everybody just wants to bring their kids back,” Pruitt said. “The teachers want face-to-face contact where they can motivate and inspire our kids … to get back on track. Not that we’re far behind, but we want to keep progressing forward and maintain that excellence.”

The state’s rules for virtual instruction will change next year, Pruitt said, so schools that offer such instruction will have a virtual academy.

“The state is really revamping that and they’re going to make it more difficult,” Pruitt said. “It’s not going to be the virtual school we had this year. You have to apply for it and be successful at it to offer virtual instruction.”

The general consensus, Pruitt said, is that most people want to resume in-person instruction. Parents that choose to continue virtual instruction have other options, Pruitt said, such as homeschooling and the state’s school choice program.

“If we do only in-person instruction, we will still have our [alternative method of instruction] days,” Pruitt said. “So if you have to be out for a snow day, we can still do virtual for a day or two and do it as an AMI day and not lose those days.”

The school board is still considering what next year’s instruction will look like, Pruitt said, keeping data from the past year in mind. Out of 400 students, Pruitt said, 39 have tested positive for COVID-19 during the 2020-21 school year. Pruitt added that 70 percent of the school’s staff has been completely vaccinated for the virus.

“Our kids have been vigilant about wearing their masks, maintaining social distancing and nobody’s been really bad sick yet,” Pruitt said. “We’ve had some that have been sick, but not deathly sick.”

Also at the meeting, Pruitt said, the board approved a resolution for the school board election by early and absentee voting only. The reason for this, Pruitt said, is that Jason Morris, Jayme Wildeman and Gayla Wolfinbarger are all running unopposed.

“Therefore, we don’t have to hold an election. It will save us some money,” Pruitt said.

The last school board election cost the district $9,000, Pruitt said.

“It saves the school a lot of money when we don’t have to do an election,” Pruitt said.

When incumbent school board members run unopposed, Pruitt said, that’s a sign that the community trusts them to do their job.

“It means that the public … feels like they’re good constituents for our community,” Pruitt said. “They’re familiar with what we’re doing and they’re just good supporters and they’re student-centered. They want good things for our students, so I’m pleased that the community is happy with them and things are going good.”

The board also voted to extend Pruitt’s contract by one year and to accept resignations from band director Barry Milner and middle school English teacher Julie Milburn.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 12.

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